Wednesday, 25 May 2016

No Turkey is not joining the EU anytime soon

In a clear attempt to avoid talking about the economy (after Gove "the clever one" came up with #Let'sBeAlbania and it tanked. Badly.), Leave campaigners returned to their favourite #ProjectFear by scaremongering that staying in the EU will see the UK flooded by immigrants from Turkey, a large relatively poor majority Muslim country.

There has been a great deal of effort to try and confuse Turkey joining the EU with visa liberalisation, when they are completely different.

Visa liberalisation will give Turkish citizens (only 7m have a passport), the right to visit Schengen countries (not the UK) for tourism or business for 90 days, as long as they have a biometric passport (Turkey hasn't yet introduced biometric passports). It's a bit like the visa waiver Brits can get to visit the USA.

Like the US visa waiver, the deal gives Turkish citizens NO right to live, study or work in any EU country or get an EU passport. Any Turk wanting to become an EU citizen must get a visa for an EU country, live there for a number of years (8 in Germany) before applying for citizenship. Most EU countries require would-be citizens to show they can support themselves and any dependents without state help, are fluent in the local language and have a good understanding of national culture and law (assessed by exams). Not a fast or easy process.

Anyone concerned that Turks could use visa free travel to move illegally to an EU country should know there are mechanisms in place to suspend the agreement should overstaying be found. EU cooperation on the union's external borders means this information is collected and shared.

In relation to Turkey joining the EU, it has been a candidate to join the EU since 1987 and has barely started implementing all the EU legislation needed. There are 35 chapters, Turkey has completed 1. Since 1987. So only 34 to go, some of which require Turkey to rescind various so-called anti-terror laws used to silence journalists and intimidate legitimate protestors. Anyone think that's going to happen soon? No, me neither. However, if there were a change of direction (government??) in Turkey, which led to an improvement of human rights and democracy, that would be a good thing for Turkey and its EU neighbours.

And of course accession of a new country to the EU requires unanimous approval by all existing members, or put more simply, every single current EU country has a veto.

So let's get back to the real debate now. I want to hear Michael Gove's "Britain should follow Albania" economic vision again....

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