An Armenian government agency has launched an inquiry into a Turkish-owned company controversially chosen to process visa applications from Armenians planning to travel to Germany and five other European Union member states.
The EU visa applications for Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Luxembourg have until now been handled by the German Embassy in Yerevan. The embassy announced earlier this week that starting next month it will it outsource its consular services to Visametric, a private Turkish-Russian agency whose parent company is based in Turkey.
The announcement raised fears in Armenia that the Turkish state will gain access to sensitive personal data of many Armenian nationals. The latter are required to disclose their incomes, bank details and other personal information in their applications for so-called Schengen visas valid in virtually all EU member states.
Armen Ashotian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, echoed “the concerns of many of our citizens” regarding “the Turkish entity” on Thursday. In a Facebook post, Ashotian said he has appealed to the government on behalf of the committee to look into the matter.
The Agency for Personal Data Protection, which is part of Armenia’s Justice Ministry, said on Friday that it is now investigating the visa service provider to “prevent possible violations” of Armenian law. A short statement by the agency gave no further details.
The German ambassador to Armenia, Matthias Kiesler, sought to allay these fears when he announced the new visa application procedure at a news conference on Wednesday. “Protection of personal data is of utmost importance to us and we can guarantee that no such data will be accessible to external users,” he said.
Turkey refuses to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia and fully supports Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.