Nonmandatory travel to European Union countries has been banned since March in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The EU recently announced it would open its external borders to 15 countries starting July 1. The controversial list, formed by EU ambassadors, includes Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and China. Citizens of these countries will be able to travel within the EU as well.
Turkey, on the other hand, was kept off the list on the grounds that it did not come to the fore as a "safe travel destination.”
The list put to a vote by the European Union is not binding, but advisory. The responsibility to perform border checks lies with member states. The list, which will be updated every 14 days, may change.
It is surprising, however, that Turkey is not on the list, despite being in the best situation among EU countries in terms of the COVID-19 cases and deaths in proportion to its population.
Aside from countries like Italy, France and those which have stopped disclosing the number of cases such as Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, even the data for Germany, the country which has managed the pandemic the best in Europe, is not comparable to Turkey, which has about the same population. The number of infected patients so far in Germany is 195,000 and the death toll is 9,000, while the number of cases in Turkey has been 198,000 but the death toll is only 5,000.
Let us note that Turkey has used a very small portion of its health care system capacity during the pandemic and has set a world record for the number of patients recovering.
The number of daily cases in Turkey, where isolation measures are more strictly enforced among the 80 million-strong population than in all other European countries, was 1,293 on June 30. The number of patients recovering was 1,302 and the daily death toll was 16.
Obviously, Brussels does not find Turkey, with which accession talks are ongoing, as safe as the EU countries that have failed during the pandemic because it is not a full member.
I cannot find any other explanation for the continuation of the travel ban.
It is comical that the EU finds Turkey more dangerous than China, which has declared the start of the second wave of the pandemic, or than third world countries whose data reliability is questionable.
In addition, Greece, an EU member, has already opened its borders to China, South Korea and several other countries, including New Zealand, from June 15 to help revive the economy. Athens will open its border with Turkey on July 15, according to Greek media sources.
While this is the case, is it possible to say that the EU's travel arrangement is shaped solely on scientific grounds and expect it to produce results?
The Turkish delegation consisting of officials from the foreign and tourism ministries will be in Germany Thursday to discuss this strange situation. I hope the problem is overcome so that our European brothers and sisters will not be deprived of Turkey, where they can take the safest vacation during the pandemic.
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