Tuesday, July 21, 2009

EU Visas to Non-Muslim Countries Raises Ire of Some Turks

From Today's Zaman:
The European Union's new visa regime, which will allow visa-free travel for citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia within the EU while excluding Muslim Bosnians and Kosovars, as well as citizens of predominantly Muslim-populated Albania, has had repercussions in EU candidate Turkey as well, where a skeptical public now tends even more to think that the EU is a "Christian club."

The EU announced the new proposal -- which will allow the citizens of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia to travel to EU countries without needing a visa starting from Jan. 1, 2010, if all 27 member states give their approval -- on Wednesday. The European Commission's proposal excluded three other Balkan countries which have Muslim-majority populations, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania and newly independent Kosovo.

Randomly surveyed by Today's Zaman, residents in the capital of Ankara said the move was not surprising because the EU is a Christian club and favors Christians over others.

Galip Bayar, 70, a bookstore owner, said the EU's latest move is indubitably religious discrimination. “It is obvious that there is an anti-Muslim sentiment within the EU, both at the societal and the political level. This directly translates into discrimination against Muslims in terms of policies as well as social practices. This situation should be known by all. We are respectful of their beliefs and never argue about these beliefs with them. We simply accept them as they are, but what we receive in return is really not an equal level of tolerance,” he said with frustration. Nafiye Erten, 55, a housewife, said she completely agreed with Bayar and added that there are very few reasons to believe that the EU is neutral to the adherents of all religions.
Click here for full article. For a particularly scathing commentary on the visa regime decision, see Milliyet columnist Emre Kızılkaya's response.

Many opinion leaders have expressed particular anger at the admission of Serbia, a country with a strong sense of ethnic-based, and to some degree Christian, nationalism. As Hajrudin Somun, former ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Turkey points out, the EU's decision regarding Serbian visas will allow Bosnian Serbs to travel through Europe freely. Bosnian Croats (Christians) are already able to travel freely, meaning that Bosniak Muslims will be the only citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina not allowed this privilege. While some politicians' view that Serbia must be allayed to keep it from gravitating toward Russia no doubt had an impact on the EU's decision, it does mean that some Serb genocidaires will be able to enter Europe without delay, a freedom not yet enjoyed by their Bosniak Muslim victims.

Turkey has enjoyed a Customs Union with the European Union since 1995 (though still refusing to open its ports to Cyprus) and is now the only country with an accession partnership whose citizens are not allowed to travel freely in Europe. Croatia already enjoyed this status, and Macedonia's inclusion in the visa-free zone, despite European concerns about corruption and organized crime in the country, now leaves many Turks feeling like they are out in the cold.

1 comment:

Nomad said...

It isn't only Turkey. Last year I was shocked to learn that, visas for most EU countries for Americans is limited to three months. Following this, the visitor must leave and not return for another three months. My uncle died in the Second World War defending European liberty and this is the result?