The Turkish business world and those working in the tourism sector reacted strongly to the European Union’s refusal to reconsider visa requirements for Turkish nationals. Businessmen complain that despite their extensive activities with European companies, they still face difficulties in traveling freely around the continent. Travel agencies have stated, “We will send our tourists to those countries that facilitate their trips. A substantial number of Turks now make trips abroad.”
A new proposal was prepared by the European Commission regarding the visa situation of Turkish nationals. A dialogue on lifting regulations for Turkey was held on April 26 and 27 between EU Internal Affairs officials and the Council of Ministers of Justice. However, in an unexpected turn of events, the proposal was rejected. This stirred frustration among Turkish business circles, who were expecting an easing of visa requirements.
Turkish businessmen note that despite Turkey’s significant economic growth, European public opinion concerning Turkey remains unchanged. Veli Cilsal, chairman of the executive board of a major tourism agency called Ani Tur, says that tourism between Turkey and Europe has been negatively affected by Europe’s intransigence in altering Turkish visa requirements.
Cilsal stated, “Turkish people do not go to Europe only for touristic purposes. Many Turks travel to Europe for business and formal meetings due to their partnerships with European companies. We have strong connections with European countries. GDP per capita is increasing in Turkey and the number of Turkish people traveling abroad is booming. Therefore, it is urgent that Turkey be exempted from this visa requirement. Visa requirements hinder relations and have negative consequences for both European states and Turkey. However, despite all of this, countries like Germany and the Netherlands are insisting on not lifting visa requirements.”
Basaran Ulusoy, chair of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), warned that Turkey had the power to retaliate. “It is Europe itself that will suffer from this decision. Turkey is not only a country that attracts tourists, but also it has ... become a country that now sends a substantial number of tourists abroad. We tell our European colleagues that if they facilitate the procedures, we will send more tourists to Europe. Nobody wants to travel to countries that cause them trouble. Greece, for example, despite all of its economic problems, still does not ease its procedures.”
The chair of the Turkish Contractors Association, Emin Sazak, was the only one to make a semi-positive comment: ”[On April 27] we had a meeting with European contractors. We want to build strong collaborations with these countries. However, the visa requirements are still present and the EU’s structure is not flexible or convenient for efficient decision making. However, I think this issue will eventually be settled as the Turkish economy develops further. Europe’s condescending attitude is irritating, but things will change when Turkey’s contribution to the EU market increases.”