Most criteria for visa-free travel finalized: Deputy FM
ANKARAMost of the European Union’s requirements to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel have been completed, a top diplomat has said, while Turkey’s EU minister said Turkish nationals could expect travel to the EU without a visa by June.
Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said 44 out of a total of 72 required criteria for Turkish citizens to travel to EU countries without a visa was already finalized and works for conducting the other criteria were ongoing.
“We have finalized 44 criteria out of the 72 conditions; works on ongoing for 28 criteria. Our aim is to finalize all the criteria by the end of this month,” said Koru during a presentation at the parliament entitled “EU and migration” on April 13.
Koru said some 856,000 irregular migrants had gone to Europe via Turkey in 2015, and 56 percent of them were Syrians, while Afghans and Iraqis followed respectively.
“These are not people who were previously living in our country. These are people who came to our country after realizing that the transit to the Greek islands over the Aegean was so easy,” he said.
Referring to the Turkey-EU deal reached in March, Koru said that while the daily number of people crossing the Aegean was 6,827 in October 2015, this figure had decreased to 70 people on April 6 and none on April 10.
Stating that Turkey would send the same amount of Syrian refugees to the EU as the EU sends to Turkey, Koru said they selected people based on United Nations criteria.
“The ones we primarily send are the relatives of people who are already in European countries, who have very crucial diseases or who are impaired,” said Koru.
Meanwhile, Bozkır said Turkish nationals could expect vise-free travel to the EU by June.
“We expect that the decision for the citizens of the Republic of Turkey to enter the Schengen zone without visa requirement will be taken before the end of June,” Bozkır said following a meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders on April 12.
The Netherlands currently holds the EU presidency.
Bozkır said the EU Commission would release a report early May on the visa agreement.
“We expect that the commission report will be positive and they will be of the opinion to remove the visa,” he said at a news conference in Amsterdam. “All the developments are advancing in this direction.
“Following that, the topic will be presented before the term president, the Netherlands. It is the Netherlands that will organize the council’s decision. We talked about this. Then it will go to parliament and the decision… will be finalized.”
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Davutoğlu will meet in Strasbourg next week to discuss the implementation of the migration deal between Brussels and Ankara, an EU official said, according to Reuters.
Juncker and Davutoğlu are both due to speak at the plenary session of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly on April 19 and the official said they would also have a bilateral meeting on the migration pact.