EU ministers back emergency brake on Turkey visa-free travel
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoEU interior ministers on May 20 adopted a so-called emergency brake that would allow European nations to swiftly halt visa-free access to Europe for Turks and other nationalities if key conditions were violated.
The brake -- or "snap back mechanism" -- will permit bloc countries to halt visa-free travel if large numbers of Turks stay in the EU illegally or if there are a large number of asylum applications by Turks.
Visa-free travel to the EU is a key demand by Ankara in exchange for taking back migrants who land in Greece under a controversial deal signed in March seeking to curb the influx as Europe grapples with a record flow of migrants.
"I'm pleased that we agreed today on a mechanism that makes it easier to act against abuse," said Klaas Dijkhoff, Migration Minister from the Netherlands, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.
If passed by the European parliament, the new mechanism will suspend visa-free travel for "third country nationals" -- such as Turkey but also other nations benefitting from similar deals with the EU.
Turkey has to meet a list of 72 criteria -- ranging from biometric passports to respect for human rights -- that were set when Brussels and Ankara first talked about 90-day visa-free travel to the Schengen area.
Key sticking points are counter-terror laws that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan refuses to amend as demanded by Brussels.
Erdoğan has accused the European Union of "hypocrisy" for telling Ankara to adapt its counter-terror laws in return for visa-free travel while it was in the throes of fighting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants.