Greece risks losing Turkish tourists due to visa issues
Zaytung, the Turkish version of The Onion, wrote that “Greece declared a state of emergency,” following the decision of the Turkish government to extend the Feast of Sacrifice holiday to 10 days due to start this Saturday.
The Turkish government made this decision to support the Turkish tourism industry, which has been in dire straits for the past two or three years. So under normal circumstances it should not particularly please the government to see Turkish tourists going to Greece and supporting the Greek economy, which has not fully recovered from the economic crisis.
Yet, it would be rather highly absurd to assume Greeks are trying to please the Turkish government to explain the recent problems Turks have started to face when they apply to Greek missions in Turkey.
It was and continues to be difficult to get a Schengen visa from EU member countries. It has become even harder. Greece had been an exception and had built a reputation among Turks for being a bit easier in issuing Schengen visas. That was one of the reasons explaining the flow of Turkish tourists to Greece.
But lately, I have been hearing a lot of complaints from Turks applying to Greek missions.
They are especially complaining about receiving short-term visas.
I can understand that Greeks might have been angry at those who received a Schengen visa from them and ended up going to another Schengen country. This problem, called “visa shopping,” which also includes the cases where the person spends only a short time in the country in which he or she received the Schengen but spends most of their time in another Schengen country, was cited as an important issue by the press office of the Greek Consulate in Istanbul.
But is issuing a short-term visa a solution to visa shopping? After all, those receiving visas (and paying 60 euros for it) from Greece, do go to Greece, even if they supposedly go there for a short time, as assumed by Greek authorities. Would it be better for Greece if that were also to stop? And also, what is the standard? How often should a Turk go to Greece and how long should he or she stay and at the same time avoid going to other Schengen countries so that Greek authorities do not get upset and issue a long-term visa?
According to the information provided by the press office, visa applications have increased by 40 percent compared to last year. The office also said there is an increase in the issuing of long-term visas, but the rate of increase in the latter were not specified.
Among the 40 percent increase, how many are first time applicants? How many are the ones who had to come back due to short-term visas?
A 40 percent rise in applications in a year is huge and I can understand how this increases the work load. But issuing long-term visas could ease the burden as well.
Why does an applicant who previously had a two-year Schengen visa from another EU member country end up getting 6 months from Greece?
I know these complaints have also reached the Turkish Foreign Ministry, so this is not just me hearing complaints here and there.
I hope Greek authorities will find a quick fix to it and should not think Turks will keep coming. Those who genuinely want to go to Greece for touristic visits will find alternative destinations, once they start feeling frustrated by visa issues.
Lastly, one hopes the visa difficulties Turkish citizens are suffering at the doorstep of the EU member countries mission will not be aggravated due to the tension between Turkey and some European governments. That will really serve no purpose at all, other than strengthening the already anti-Western feelings in society and alienating and making those who want Turkey to be on good terms with Europe resentful.