Reuniting Europe

Schengen against Sham-gen

Turkey has been building its own visa-free area, resembling the EU borderless Schengen space, and dubbed Sham-gen (from al-Sham, or Bilad al-Sham, referring to the region bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea, usually known as the Levant or Greater Syria, comprising modern Syria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories).

Indeed, Ankara established a visa-free regime with countries such as Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.

As a result, Greece is experiencing considerable strain with a surge in the number of immigrants crossing its frontier. Apparently Bulgaria has difficulties joining the Schengen space, because of this new immigration pressure.

At the same time, Turkey wants the EU to lift the visa requirement for its citizens.

The question is: isn’t Turkey in fact on a collision course with the EU? Against the background of the stalled EU-Turkey accession talks, this maybe the case.

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  1. What is wrong with countries constructing fences & walls along there borders???

    Surely if people want to cross from one country to the next they should be going through on road or train & not wandering across rivers, hills & the countryside…

    Especially in this era of Mass Drug & People trafficking, you’d expect the idea of fences to have more support because this would force all travellers to cross borders at officail crossings…

  2. Good evening,

    Stefan Füle said several months ago that Turkey will have to change its visa policy with its neighbours in the future.

    But honestly I don’t really understand why he said that.

    When a Syrian citizen goes to Turkey, will he be able to travel from Turkey to the the EU without any visa?

    If not, I don’t see any problem.

    In spite of the appalling double standards of the EU of Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel, Turkey’s goal is still the EU membership.

    Turkey is indeed fed up with Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel because they almost froze the EU-Turkey negotiation process, above all owing to the Cypriot issue which is well and truly manipulated (the president of Slovenya said several months ago: “Technical issues should not be unnecessarily politicized”).

    However, the Turkish ship is still sailing towards the EU. In fact, many people in Turkey and in the EU are working hard every day in order to get Turkey closer to the EU legislation. That is not much dealt with by the media, but believe me currently a revolution is happening in Turkey. But it is a democratic revolution.

    Well that EU membership does not prevent Turkey from improving its relations with its neighbours.

    As a Turkish citizen who knows Turkey since 1996, I am able to say that Turkey only aims at propagating stability,prosperity and peace in its regions from the Middle-East to the Balkans.

    Turkey lifted the visas with Syria or Lebanon, but it is also about to lift the visas with Russia and Ukraine.

    That policy is in a way a privileged partnership! And Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel would understand that very wel!! But the difference with Turkey’s privileged partnership towards its neighbours is that there is no discrimination.

    Several US and EU media as well as several politcians claim that Turkey is shifting to the east. At first, that does not mean anything. Secondly, Turkey is shifting to the peace. It is certainly not drifting from its EU bid or the west.

    Germany has economic relations with Iran. And France with Saudi Arabia. But no EU politician ever said that these two top EU countries are shifting to teh east!!

    There are many illegal who want to reach the EU from Turkey.

    But this problem is about to be resolved. In fact, Turkey and the EU are about to sign a readmission agreement (but the Turkish minister for foreign affair underlined that Turkey will sign it as soon as there is some progress on the visa policy imposed on the Turkeish citizens).

    I quote from ABhaber:

    “Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: “I am pleased to announce that following the meeting between the chief negotiators held on 14 January 2011 in Ankara, the final adjustments to the draft EU Readmission Agreement with Turkey were agreed and the negotiation has now come to its end. The outcome of the negotiation is very balanced and will contribute greatly to the effective management of irregular migration in the region. I would like to thank the Turkish side for its very constructive and pragmatic approach during the negotiation. The Text was presented to the EU Member States and I trust that they will approve the current compromise and that we will be able to bring it for formal conclusion to the next Justice and Home Affairs Council on 24 February 2011. The European Parliament will be duly involved, in line with the Treaty requirements. This important development also opens up new perspectives to further foster our cooperation with Turkey in the area of visa policy and related areas, with a view to improving the mobility of our citizens”.”

    Moreover, Turkey signed a readmision agreement with Russia and most probably with Ukraine too.

    Thus, the issue of the illegals entering Greece or Bulgaria is resolved.

    Somerthing else: Turkey created a special team of 30 thousand (maybe 50 as far as I remember) policemen to mont guard at its frontiers with all its neighbours.

    (by the way, regarding the Shengen space, the EU doesn’t want Romania to take advantage of it. But Romania stated that if it is not included in the Shengen space, it will veto the EU membership of Croatia).

    Lastly, the minister for foreign affairs of Hungary Janos Martonyi said last week: “Whereas the citizens of Paraguay and Uruguay can come to the EU with no visas restriction, the visas are not lifted towards Turkey. That is discrimination.”

    In fact, Turkey is candidate country to the EU since 1999, and the EU-Turkey negotiations started in 2005. Therefore, isn’t it surprising and even ridiculous to prevent the Turkish citizens from coming in the EU?

    But there is a good news: according to Euractiv Turkey, thanks to a tribunal of Hannover, the Turkish tourists will be able to go to Germany with no visa during 3 months.

    That’s a small step for this tribunal. A big step for the German economy!

    And that’s a positive step for all the Turkish citizens of Turkey who want to pay a visit to their relatives in Germany, and of course who want to visit the country of Michael Schumacher.

    This morning I sent an e-mail about that news to an uncle of mine who lives in Germany. He said: ‘If that’s true that’s a good news. I always wanted my mum to come to see me here”.

    Best regards,


  3. Dear Cem,
    About Turkish tourists (hopefully) going without visas in Germany (and the rest of the Schengen space) I’m a little skeptical. I covered the so-called Soysal case, here are a couple of links:
    It’s complicated legal matter and frankly, I don’t see is as a shortcut to solve the visa problem.
    When my country Bulgaria was given visa free regime in 2001, one of the main conditions was that Bulgaria would introduce a visa regime with Russia. We have always had a visa free regime with this country and millions of Russians enjoy coming to Bulgaria visa free. So Bulgaria introduced a visa regime with Russia, and our tourism suffered.
    I’m not the EU, but I hope I answered at least one of your questions.
    Kind regards,

  4. Hello Georgi,

    since Turkey and the EU are about to sign a readmission agreement, the EU will not have to be afraid of possible illegals coming from Syria or Russia.

    So, I don’t see the lifting of the visas from Turkey towards the Syrians or the Russians as a threat.

    Given that Bulgaria is an EU member, if an illegal from Russia enters the EU through Bulgaria and is arrested in France, will not that illegal be sent back to Bulgaria?

    If he will, I really do not understand why Bulgaria would not lift the visas towards Russia.

    Best regards,


  5. Dear Georgi,

    You wrote:

    “Apparently Bulgaria has difficulties joining the Schengen space, because of this new immigration pressure.”

    But then you wrote in your response to me that Bulgaria was given visa free regime in 2001.

    Does not the visa free regime means being included in the Schengen space?

    Best regards,


  6. Dear Cem,
    Thank you for this question. A lot of people get confused with Schengen membership and visa free regime.
    In fact, a country doesn’t need to be member of the EU to have a visa-free regime with the Schengen countries.
    This is the Council regulation listing the countries subject to visa requirement and those who are not:
    Not all EU countries are member of the borderless Schengen area. Some because they don’t want (UK, Ireland), others because they are not ready – Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus.
    But the citizens of Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus travel visa-free across the entire EU. The only difference is that if you take a plane from one of those countries to the Schengen space, you still have passport control (for nationals of these countries showing your ID card is enough).
    Basically for Bulgaria and Romania becoming member of Schengen is only a matter of prestige.
    Kind regards,

  7. Ok.

    I have another question:

    France and Germany are within the Schengen space, so If I decide to travel by plane to Germany, will not have I an ID card or passport control at the airport in Germany?

    Best regards,


    PS. I always go to Germany by car. But sometimes through Thalys.

  8. Dear Cem,
    To be on the safe side, I think you need both your ID and passport, because you need to check in with an identity document. And they may say the ID is not enough.
    But you don’t show it to a border guard, you show it to the airport official who does the checking. So there is no border control, but there is still check-in (by car there is nothing, but I advise you to have your passport with you).
    Besides, if you travel by car you may have noticed that the Germans have ‘flying patrols’ at their borders and they like to stop cars with number plates from ‘immigration’ countries. They have stopped me several times with my Bulgarian number plates. By the way, Bulgaria has complained about this
    discriminatory treatment and the Commission is watching this practice.
    Kind regards,

  9. Stefan Füle said several months ago that Turkey will have to change its visa policy in the future.

    But I don’t understand why he said that.

    Even though Turkey lifted the visas towards its neighbours, the Syrians or the Russians for instance will not be able to go from Turkey to the EU by plane or by car without any visa, will they?

    Or did Mr Füle foresaw the long-term by refering to the Schengen space?

    If he refered to the Schengen space, I think I have understood:

    when Turkey is included into the Schengen space, there will be a problem if the Syrian or Russian citizens travel by car from Turkey to the EU though Greece and Bulgaria.

    So that will be the problem regarding the visa free regime that Turkey implemented to its neighbours, will it not?

    I don’t know that subject, but maybe that a solution would be to not include Turkey in the Schengen space.

    Would not the lifting of the visas be enough for Turkey?

    In that case I don’t see the lifting of the visas of Turkey towards its neighbours as a problem.

    As for Bulgaria, it could lift again the visas towards Russia (if it decides to not join the Schengen space).

    As I wrote above, why would it be a problem for the EU if the Russian citizens went to Bulgaria with no visa?

    Let’s remind that Bulgaria, as an EU member, most probably approved the readmission agreement. So, there’s no risk for the other EU members.

    Best regards,


  10. No Mr. Gotev. The real question is: Isn’t the EU in fact on a collision course with human kind? And therefore, why would Turkey be part of that?

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