Amid migration fears, Greece supports visa-free travel of Turks to EU

Special Amid migration fears, Greece supports visa-free travel of Turks to EU
Greece and Turkey resumed exploratory talks earlier this year to find common ground on some long-standing maritime disputes. (AP/File)
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Updated 06 October 2021

Amid migration fears, Greece supports visa-free travel of Turks to EU

Amid migration fears, Greece supports visa-free travel of Turks to EU
  • Turkey currently hosts about 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population worldwide

ANKARA: Ankara and Brussels are readying to discuss another milestone for their long-standing relations as European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson prepares to visit in mid-October to launch high-level talks between the EU and Turkey on migration management, including visa liberalization for Turkish citizens.

Amid fears of a potential inflow of refugees after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and the Syrian quagmire, some key member states, including Greece, are unexpectedly lending support to Turkey’s rights to enter Europe visa-free in return for more cooperation on migration.

Speaking to Die Welt on Oct. 4, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi called on Brussels to stay loyal to its commitments on visa liberalization to Turkey days after the same minister publicly announced that his country would not tolerate a replay of the 2015 migration crisis along its borders.

Similarly, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said last month that Turkey was a key partner in addressing new migration challenges to Europe and needed support.

So far, Ankara has fulfilled 66 of the 72 criteria the union is asking for in exchange for visa liberalization, including requirements regarding fundamental rights, migration management, security and public order, and document safety.

The remaining criteria include revising anti-terror legislation by widening the scope of freedom of expression, signing a cooperation agreement with Europol, cooperating with EU member states on legal issues, implementing an anti-corruption strategy and revising legislation on the protection of personal data in line with EU law, among others.

The agreement signed between Turkey and the EU in 2013 for the readmission of irregular migrants who crossed into the EU — especially to Greek islands — through Turkish soil suggested that after Ankara fulfilled all its responsibilities, Turkish citizens with biometric passports would have been able to travel freely to the Schengen area within a couple of years.

While nearly 861,630 people reached Greek shores in 2015, that number plunged to 36,310 the following year, and the number of missing persons in the Aegean Sea declined from 441 in 2016 to 71 in 2019.

However, the visa-free process stalled due to several political flashpoints that erupted in EU-Turkey relations over the years.

“In 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a circular instructing the relevant ministries to coordinate their efforts with a view to fulfilling all the remaining criteria. However, this could not be accomplished due to other complications in the Turkey-EU relationship and a lack of motivating factors,” Cigdem Nas, an expert on EU-Turkey relations and secretary-general of the Istanbul-based Economic Development Foundation of Turkey, told Arab News.

After a turbulent year in 2020, Turkey and the EU decided to follow a positive agenda to repair their relations and better manage political disagreements.

“This positive agenda involved modernizing the Customs Union, relaunching high-level dialogue on climate, health, security and regional issues, facilitating people-to-people contacts and cooperating on migration. Visa liberalization was, however, not mentioned in this agenda,” Nas said.

According to Nas, talks about visa liberalization gained momentum as the parties cooperated on migration, especially with the flow of refugees from war-torn Syria through the original migration deal in March 2016.

“Greece’s support may be related to the migration issue. Greece has been under much pressure from consecutive waves of migration since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. As it is considered at the border of the EU along the Eastern Mediterranean route, Turkey’s cooperation in regulating migratory flows is essential for Greece,” she said.

“Greek decision-makers may feel that visa liberalization can be a motivating factor for Turkey to engage in more sincere cooperation with Greece and the EU in controlling irregular migration,” Nas added.

Turkey currently hosts about 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population worldwide.

According to Nas, although the Afghan crisis has not yet created any pressure on Greece in terms of migration, it may provoke a new wave of mass migration in the near future as other migrants also arrive from the wider Middle East and Central Asia.

“It is important for Greece to keep the momentum up in its relations with Turkey and support the latter’s EU bid, including visa liberalization. Turkey may also request from Greece further cooperation in order to convince other member states to revitalize Turkey-EU relations not only on the visa issue but also on such critical issues as Customs Union modernization and the Green Deal,” she said.

Greece and Turkey resumed exploratory talks earlier this year to find common ground on some long-standing maritime disputes.

Amanda Paul, a senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, said the upcoming high-level meeting between Turkey and the EU is to be welcomed. 

“Having a conversation on migration management is important. There is a need to deepen cooperation in this area, as there are common challenges for both partners,” she told Arab News. “The meeting comes on the back of the Afghanistan crisis, with the EU keen to avoid new flows of refugees arriving in its territory and continue discussions on the future of the 2016 migration deal, which was extended to 2022.”

In the Western Balkans, the EU has a visa-free regime with Montenegro, Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, as well as Georgia and Ukraine. Brussels still continues to monitor the fulfillment of the visa liberalization requirements of these countries through committee meetings and regular reports.

Non-EU citizens from these countries can enter the Schengen area with a biometric passport for 90 days, within a period of 180 days, without a visa.


Egypt tries man over murder of student who refused advances

Egypt tries man over murder of student who refused advances
Updated 22 sec ago

Egypt tries man over murder of student who refused advances

Egypt tries man over murder of student who refused advances
  • The murder has triggered widespread anger in the Arab world, as a similar killing of a female Jordanian student occurred a few days later

AL MANSURAH: A trial began Sunday for an Egyptian man accused of stabbing a woman to death in a public street after she rejected his advances — a case that has sparked widespread outrage.
A video went viral last week appearing to show the victim, identified as student Nayera Ashraf, being stabbed by a young man outside her university.
The crime has triggered widespread anger both in Egypt and beyond, having been followed a few days later by a similar incident in which Jordanian student Iman Irshaid was shot dead on a university campus.
Social media users immediately drew comparisons between the two murders, decrying cases of femicide in the Arab world.
At the Mansoura Criminal Court, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Cairo, Mohamed Adel was accused of “premeditated murder,” after confessing to intentionally killing the victim, an AFP correspondent said.
Ashraf had previously reported the alleged perpetrator to the authorities, fearing that he would attack her, according to her father and witnesses.
The maximum penalty for murder is death in Egypt, which carried out the third highest number of executions in the world in 2021, according to Amnesty International.
“He stabbed her several times,” said the prosecution, which found “messages threatening to cut her throat” on the victim’s phone.
The next hearing is set for Tuesday, the defendant’s lawyer, Ahmed Hamad, told AFP.
In a rare occurrence among cases involving violence against women, authorities allowed television cameras to film the hearing on Sunday.
On social media, many Jordanian and Egyptian users called for the perpetrator to be sentenced to death, while others said men must “learn to take no for an answer.”
Egyptian preacher Mabrouk Attia sparked outrage last week after suggesting that the victim would not have met the same fate had she been veiled.
Nearly eight million Egyptian women were victims of violence committed by their partners or relatives, or by strangers in public spaces, according to a United Nations survey conducted in 2015.


Jordanian woman stabbed to death by husband in UAE

Jordanian woman stabbed to death by husband in UAE
Updated 11 sec ago

Jordanian woman stabbed to death by husband in UAE

Jordanian woman stabbed to death by husband in UAE
  • CCTV footage shows the victim being stabbed 15 times in her car before the attacker drove off in it
  • Killing triggered widespread anger in Arab world, follows murder of female Jordanian student occurred a few days earlier

LONDON: A Jordanian woman was stabbed to death by her husband in Sharjah, UAE on Friday, local media reported.

The 20-year-old woman was stabbed 15 times following a dispute with her husband, according to the Sharjah Police.

The suspect, who fled in the victim's car, was arrested on a beach within two hours of the crime.Col. Faisal bin Nassar, the head of Sharjah Police CID, said CCTV footage from the young woman's residence parking lot showed the suspected killer attacking the woman inside her car.

After the suspected attacker was seen leaving in the vehicle, police were able to trace it where the found her body inside it.

The man confessed to killing the woman due to personal differences and has now been transferred to the Public Prosecution.

Following the incident, people took to Twitter to express their outrage.

One user tweeted: “The World is no longer safe for us women.”

Another wrote: “Now tomorrow who is the next victim?”

Only two days prior, a female student was killed by a male shooter inside a private university in Amman, Jordan.


Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 

Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 
Updated 26 June 2022

Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 

Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 
  • Iran’s indirect talks with the US on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact will resume soon, the Iranian foreign minister said

Talks between the US and Iran on the 2015 nuclear deal are “likely” to be held in Qatar, Iran International reported on Sunday, citing a website close to Iran’s security council.

Efforts by Qatar to help restart talks for lifting US sanctions on Iran made “Doha’s chances for hosting the upcoming negotiations higher” than other countries, Iran International website said, quoting Nour News.

Nour News, according to Iran International, reflects the views of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary, Ali Shamkhani.

Iran’s indirect talks with the US on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact will resume soon, the Iranian foreign minister said on Saturday amid a push by the EU’s top diplomat to break a months-long impasse.

“We are prepared to resume talks in the coming days. What is important for Iran is to fully receive the economic benefits of the 2015 accord,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, adding that he had held a “long but positive meeting” with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Borrell met Iran’s top diplomat on Saturday, Iranian state TV reported, as the bloc seeks to break an impasse between Tehran and Washington over reinstating a nuclear pact.

The pact appeared close to being revived in March when the EU — which is coordinating negotiations — invited foreign ministers representing the accord’s parties to Vienna to finalize an agreement after 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and President Joe Biden’s administration.

(With Reuters)


Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved

Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved
Updated 26 June 2022

Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved

Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved
  • Benjamin Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, who now has an opening to return to lead the country

TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened what is likely his last Cabinet meeting as premier on Sunday, with parliament expected to dissolve itself this week, triggering new elections in the fall.
Bennett’s decision to head to elections puts an end to an ambitious political project that united eight ideologically disparate parties that chose to put aside their differences to oust former leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, who now has an opening to return to lead the country. The elections, the fifth the country has held in three years, deepen an unprecedented political crisis in Israel.
At the meeting, Bennett listed a series of accomplishments under his year-old government and thanked his coalition partners, which included dovish parties that support Palestinian statehood, nationalist ones who don’t, and for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab political faction.
“It was an excellent government that relied, yes, on a complicated coalition. And here in this room there is a group of people that knew how to put aside ideological disagreements, to rise above, and to work for the state of Israel,” he said.
As part of the power-sharing agreement that brought Bennett to power, he is set to hand over the premiership to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a centrist former broadcaster, once parliament is dissolved. Elections are expected around the end of October and polls show Netanyahu’s Likud party is expected to garner the most seats.
But as in most rounds of voting during the current political turmoil, Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has been unable to muster a majority to form a coalition government, with some of his traditional allies refusing to join him. That could further extend the crisis after the upcoming vote.
While Bennett’s government helped steady the economy and navigated the last year of the coronavirus pandemic, it was beset by disagreements over the very issues it sought to avoid, particularly Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank. Bennett said he decided to put an end to his political experiment because the government was unable to renew regulations that enshrine separate legal systems for Jewish settlers in the territory and Palestinians.
Bennett’s own nationalist faction, Yamina, was dogged by defectors, legislators who said the prime minister, a former settler leader, had veered too much toward the center in his bid to keep the coalition intact.
Bennett, who entered politics a decade ago, hasn’t said whether he’ll run in the upcoming elections.


Detained Tunisia ex-PM Jebali hospitalized: lawyer

 Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2022

Detained Tunisia ex-PM Jebali hospitalized: lawyer

 Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
  • Jebali, a former senior official in the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that is a key rival of President Kais Saied, was detained in relation to transfers of large sums of money from overseas to a charity in Tunisia

TUNIS: Tunisia’s former prime minister Hamadi Jebali, on hunger strike after being arrested earlier this week on money-laundering allegations, was rushed to intensive care on Saturday, his lawyer said.
“His condition rapidly deteriorated because he is on an intense hunger strike and he didn’t take his medicine” for cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, lawyer Zied Taher told AFP.
Police had not delivered the drugs in question to Jebali’s cell despite prosecutors allowing the family to take them to the police station, he added.
Jebali, a former senior official in the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that is a key rival of President Kais Saied, was detained in relation to transfers of large sums of money from overseas to a charity in Tunisia.
Ennahdha has dismissed the allegations and said the arrest was part of a campaign of settling political scores.
Saied in July last year sacked the government and suspended the Ennahdha-dominated parliament in moves opponents have called a coup in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.
He later dissolved the assembly, extended his powers over the judiciary and moved to change the constitution.
Many Tunisians have backed Saied’s moves against a system seen as corrupt and self-serving.
Jebali is not the first senior Ennahdha figure to be detained since Saied’s power grab — former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri was also held under house arrest for two months before being released without charge.