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Visa-Free Travel for Turkey: In Everybody’s Interest, Spring 2012
Today Turkey is the only EU candidate country whose citizens are obliged to obtain a Schengen visa before being allowed to enter the EU. This is a source of intense frustration for Turkish citizens and officials alike. So far the EU has refused to offer Turkey a visa liberalization process like the one that it conducted with Western Balkan countries a few years ago, and which it is now conducting with Moldova and Ukraine. This process requires a country to carry out reforms that help protect the EU’s external borders; in return, the visa requirement is lifted. The EU’s refusal runs counter to its own security interests. The Turkish-Greek border is the main gateway to the EU for irregular migrants. The EU needs Turkey’s full cooperation in order to reduce illegal migration to the EU – but it needs to offer something in return. A visa liberalization process would also be smart in view of a growing number of court decisions that have declared the visa requirement for Turkish nationals illegal in certain cases. Such a process would radically improve EU-Turkey relations and inject new momentum into the flagging accession process.