It’s a subject that makes a lot of people cringe in Turkey and that poisons even more the already complicated relations of this country with Europe: the question of Schengen visas and the obstacle course that has become, for the Turks, the steps to obtain this essential sesame to circulate in most European States.
From our correspondent in Ankara,
Obtaining a Schengen visa for a Turk is significantly more difficult today than six or seven years ago. In 2015, the refusal rate for Turks did not exceed 4%. In 2019, this rate had reached 10%, and in 2021, it was 19%. Refusals on the rise while the supporting documents requested to constitute a file are still numerous and the cost of a request has exploded. The application fees are paid in euros. However, the Turkish currency – the pound – has been in free fall against the euro in recent years.
When a country refuses a visa, it never specifies the reason to the rejected applicant. It is the rule. But there are still several pretty solid leads. The economic situation has deteriorated a lot in recent years in Turkey, and it is not over. The one-year inflation rate approached 80% in June, unheard of for twenty-five years. Second, the political and rule of law situation has also deteriorated markedly, especially since the coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.
Explosion of requests
These two factors combined have had an automatic effect: the explosion of visa applications from Turks wishing to escape this stifling climate. These requests increased by a further 19% last year compared to 2020.
For a European State to grant a Schengen visa, there is an essential criterion: that this State is convinced that the person making the request will return to his country before the expiry of the visa. The proliferation of refusals reveals that the countries of the Schengen area fear that a growing proportion of these Turkish applicants have other intentions than a tourist stay, and actually wish to settle there.
Turkey recently sent a report to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe complaining of “discrimination”. Moreover, the issue of visas is a subject that Turkish officials have systematically addressed for years in all their exchanges with European officials.
The abolition of Schengen visas for Turks was one of the counterparties promised by the European Union when it signed the famous “migration pact” with Ankara in 2016. This agreement promised the abolition of visas for Turks before the end of 2016. We are therefore very, very far from the commitments made at the time.
The European Union justifies itself by recalling that Turkey does not meet all the criteria for obtaining the lifting of visas. In particular, she wants Turkey to reform its extremely vague anti-terrorism laws, which President Erdogan categorically refuses. The case is therefore at an impasse. In the meantime, these repeated refusals of visas after extremely cumbersome and costly procedures create among the Turks a feeling of humiliation and a great deal of resentment with regard to Europe. A Europe which, paradoxically, nevertheless continues to embody an economic and democratic model for most of them.