European Court decision gives hope to Turkish travellers

A recent European Court of Justice ruling has increased the chances of speeding up the abolition of visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting the EU, the president of Turkey’s Economic Development Foundation (IKV), Professor Haluk Kabaalioglu, told EURACTIV Turkey in an interview.

Professor Kabaalioglu, who is dean of the Faculty of Law at Yeditepe University and has worked as a high-ranking diplomat in the Turkish Mission to the EU, called for the removal of visa barriers for Turkish nationals in the Schengen space, which he finds inconsistent with the country’s status as a candidate for membership of the Union. 

The Turkish lobbyist described at length the difficulties faced by various professional groups affected negatively by cumbersome visa-issuing procedures. He cited many cases of people who had lost business opportunities, failed to attend conferences or even missed the chance to study abroad, just because visas were not issued on time. 

More significantly, Prof. Kabaalioglu insisted that the visa requirement is in breach of existing treaties signed between Ankara and the EU. He illustrated this by alluding to a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the so-called ‘Soysal’ case. 

Mehmet Soysal and Ibrahim Savatl worked as drivers for a Turkish company, driving lorries owned by a German company. When their visa renewal applications were rejected by a Berlin court, they filed an appeal in the Berlin Higher Administrative Court, which decided to refer the case to the ECJ. On 19 February 2009, the ECJ ruled that visas were not required for the Turkish citizens, for whom such a restriction did not apply at the time of the entry into force of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement, concluded between the EEC and Turkey on 23 November 1970. 

The Soysal case, which attracted great interest in Turkey, had various repercussions for Turkish public opinion, the professor said. He explained that from the Turkish perspective, this ruling covers businessmen, lawyers, sportspeople, doctors and academics, as well as Turkish citizens who wish to travel to EU countries for touristic, study-related or medical purposes. 

He also explained that the visa requirement would still apply in the case of countries which ratified the Additional Protocol at a later date, when the visa obligation with Turkey was in force. As an example he cited Germany, where the Additional Protocol came into force in 1973, Spain, where this happened in 1986, and Romania and Bulgaria in 2007, when the latter two countries joined the EU. 

“What needs to be done as a first step is to ensure that all member states implement the Soysal decision in a uniform manner to all Turkish citizens,” Prof. Kabaalioglu insisted. 

To read a full version of this interview, please click here

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