Turkey and EU agree to sign historic visa deal
BRUSSELS / ANKARA
European home affairs Commissioner, Swedish, Cecilia Malmstrom Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Czech Stefan Fule pose at the end of a news conference after they reached agreement on visa and readmission for Turkish citizens at EU heaquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 04 December 2013. Cihan Photo
Turkey and the European Union have agreed to sign the much-anticipated Readmission Agreement on Dec. 16 in Ankara in return for launching visa liberalization talks for Turkish citizens, after nearly two years of arduous negotiations.
The decision for the signing of the Readmission Agreement was announced in Brussels on Dec. 4 after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held meetings with Cecilia Malstöm and Stefan Füle, European commissioners for home affairs and enlargement, respectively.
“It’s a historic day. We have reached the agreement today,” Davutoğlu told reporters during the joint press conference in Brussels. “We will officially launch the process of visa freedom on Dec. 16 and we’ll sign the Readmission Agreement,” the minister said, citing that the processes would go forward in parallel. “Visa exemption for Turkish nationals will be introduced in three and a half years’ time at most, in line with the completion of necessary procedures. But maybe it will be completed much before than this,” he stressed.
Füle, for his part, thanked Davutoğlu and the Turkish government for their contribution to the process. Füle said the agreement was part of the positive agenda on which Ankara and Brussels have agreed.
Turkey and the EU have agreed on the road map for visa liberalization for Turkish citizens in return for the signing of the Readmission Agreement in 2011 but negotiations could not commence due to deep mistrust between the two parties.
As a result of long negotiations, Turkey has agreed to accept migrants who illegally entered into EU territories via Turkey but has the right to suspend it in the case of EU’s non-compliance with the visa liberalization process.
The readmission process will bring an additional burden on Turkey’s shoulders but Brussels agreed to make financial assistance to Turkey to this end. Turkey will unilaterally make a declaration that its signature does not mean that it recognizes the Republic of Cyprus.
If the process goes smoothly after the deal is signed, Turkish citizens will be able to enter Europe without a visa in three years’ time. Turkey had been harshly criticizing the EU for not allowing visa-free travel rights to Turkish citizens.
Apart from its direct effects on Turkish citizens’ visa-free travel to the EU countries, the deal is also considered to have a positive influence on the accession process of Turkey. In a very first sign, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who hasn’t attended any EU meetings for three years, is expected to visit Brussels in January, three years after his last visit to EU’s capital.