Destinations Magazine

Visa Wars

By Stizzard
Visa wars

WHEN Macedonia was granted visa-free access to the European Union’s Schengen area in 2009, its citizens popped champagne corks in the streets. Last week, as Turkey passed a last-minute flurry of laws to win the same prize, MPs brawled in the National Assembly. Now, as the European Commission proposes waiving visas for Turkey in a deal to send back migrants from the Greek islands, it stands accused of rewarding a serial human-rights violator and undermining its own values.

The decline tells a story. Over the years the EU has run out of tools to influence its neighbours. The most powerful was the promise of enlargement, but that has run out of steam; the club has struggled just to digest its eastward expansions in 2004 and 2007. Creating regional associations short of membership made elites happy, but often did little for ordinary citizens.

That left the prospect of visa-free travel as the last card in the deck, and for those Balkan countries that won it a few years ago, it succeeded. Laws improved and bureaucracies were streamlined. There were hiccups: last year Balkan Roma seeking a few months of benefits surged into rich countries…

The Economist: Europe

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