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EUROPE > Turkey, EU display mutual willingness for revival of ties

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Ankara and Brussels look to get their ties back on track, signing agreements that could one day result in visa-free travel for Turks to the bloc

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Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström signed an accord to enter into discussions on dropping visa requirements for Turks visiting Europe at a ceremony in Ankara Dec 16. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (R) and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström signed an accord to enter into discussions on dropping visa requirements for Turks visiting Europe at a ceremony in Ankara Dec 16. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Turkey signed a long-anticipated agreement with the European Union yesterday, refreshing hopes for new momentum in stalled bilateral relations between Ankara and Brussels.

The landmark agreement paves the way for EU governments to send back illegal immigrants crossing into Europe from Turkey in exchange for talks on visa-free travel for citizens of the country, which is a candidate for full membership.

In addition to the Readmission Agreement, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström also signed an accord to enter into discussions on dropping visa requirements for Turks visiting Europe.

The agreements as well as upcoming mutual visits between Turkish and EU leaders seem to be a sign of the mutual willingness of the two parties to breathe new life into their long-stalled relations.

“The gateway to Europe without a visa will now be open,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the ceremony, assuring that Turkey would fulfill its obligations.

Ankara overtly displayed the importance it attached to the occasion by sending the prime minister and three members of the Cabinet, as EU Minister Egemen Bağış and Interior Minister Muammer Güler were also present at the ceremony.

The ceremony in Ankara came after Turkey and the EU began a new round of membership talks last month following a three-year hiatus.

Erdoğan said the move would add “momentum and excitement” to Turkey’s EU process. He recalled that he is scheduled to pay an official visit to Brussels on Jan. 21 and added that French President François Hollande would also pay a visit to Turkey on Jan. 27-28. “These visits represent an opportunity to give a new impetus, a new enthusiasm to our relations with the European Union,” he said.

While in Brussels, Erdoğan will hold talks with European Council President Herman van Rompuy, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

Erdoğan to EU: No worries

In his speech, Erdoğan said no one should be concerned when the visas are lifted. Thanks to the country’s dynamic economy over the past 10 years, Turkey is no longer an exporter of labor; instead, the country has now become a destination for jobseekers, he added.

The EU wants Turkey to take back thousands of illegal migrants who have crossed its border into Greece, the EU’s eastern frontier. The deal stalled in 2012, with Turkey refusing to sign as the EU would not commit to starting negotiations on the visa-free travel regime applied to other candidate countries.

The deal foresees the lifting of visa restrictions within 3.5 years, but Erdoğan said he hoped it could be done much sooner.

The visa exemption would tear down an important psychological barrier, Davutoğlu said, adding that visa-free travel would enable EU citizens and Turkish people to interact more and pave the way for a new era.

Malmström said the initiative would bring benefits to both Turkish and EU citizens. “We have started two initiatives in parallel, which will boost relations between Turkey and the European Union and bring benefits to their citizens. I hope that the readmission agreement will now be ratified by both sides without delay and that the visa liberalization dialogue will soon [result in] substantial progress,” she said.

Ankara, however, unilaterally added annotations regarding its concerns on the process when signing yesterday’s agreements.

“We have full respect for concerns and we assure that within the framework of dialogue, we will take account of those concerns,” Malmström said.

In one of the annotations, Ankara said it would not change its visa regime with third countries. Turkey has made several bilateral agreements for visa exemptions with nations, including Russia and some Arab and African countries, that will remain in force until it attains full membership in the union.

The financial burden of readmission is on Turkey’s shoulders, but the country will establish shelters and facilities for migrants sent back by European countries with funds provided by the EU.

Another annotation said Ankara would keep its geographical reservation on the Refugee Convention. Although the EU has long pressed Turkey to change who it views as a refugee, Ankara said it would only examine the clause when it is granted full membership in the bloc.

December/16/2013

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READER COMMENTS

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Brit in Turkey

12/17/2013 6:52:52 PM

Pawel Bury: By your logic can Britain use the same arguments to France?

hanni bal

12/17/2013 5:04:23 PM

@mark mark, What arrogance? come to turkey and be our guest..Turkish delight! Historically, Turkey have a Mideast & eastern distinct affinity& common ancestry with these neighbors which are mostly under Ottoman Empire that is why there are referred as "guest" While Europe is another different story during the 1940's which are then termed as refugee for they fled solely from the war zones. I guess nobody wants to be a refugee or a guest for a long certain period of time. Where is the arrogance?

Chris Green

12/17/2013 1:55:14 PM

Brit in Turkey: Quite right, you only have to look at the charade with that Abu Qatada creature, now facing trial at long last where he belongs, in Jordan. It cost us millions and millions to deal with his case, not only in Cat A jail costs, but also maintaining his huge extended family too. I would have happily malletted him myself and it would have only cost me a fiver for the single round needed to do so!

dogan kemal ileri

12/17/2013 1:31:17 PM

Soap box what are you talking about. I adore the British and admire them in equal measure. I only wish we were as advanced as they are. Funnily enough we actually have a lot in common with the British in character starting with neither of us are European and we both had huge empires. My concern as I am very much a Patriotic Turk is for this country and its future. As I am not from Turkiye in the first place I have the added advantage of seeing her without the usual associated prejudices .

Baris

12/17/2013 1:21:53 PM

Pawel Bury: "Turks are responsible for these problems", "Just stop exporting your problem to others". You are mistaken, Pawel Bury. You would have been right if Turkey invited them to Turkey just to trasport them to EU, but that's not what's happening. These people are desperate and they seek refuge in the rich and democratic EU, which is a magnet for them. They make their way to Turkey just to be able to enter the EU, thus putting a burden on Turkey's resources. Turkey suffers because of EU.

Mark Mark

12/17/2013 12:56:45 PM

The problem is in Turkeys own arrogance after the second word war she only enacted laws that recognised that refugees would only be accepted and classed as such if they came from Europe.Yet the flows of refugees have been from the middle east, Asia and Africa so she has never been obliged under her own laws to protect them or provide safety and shelter.Non European refugees are classed as guests.

Halil Ibrahim

12/17/2013 12:48:03 PM

I think this Visa policy will be the end of the AKP party in elections, this whole EU thing has no support in Turkey.

Brit in Turkey

12/17/2013 10:34:55 AM

And how is Turkey to deport these people with the ECHR breathing down her neck? Just look at the difficulties Britain is having with getting rid of terrorists and criminals.

hanni bal

12/17/2013 10:30:55 AM

Turkey could have studied the agreement a 100 times.It's too good to be true.I hope we have learned enough when dealing with the Europeans.Turkey have much to offer the EU and its market & culture.What about EU market and culture?What could be the macro and micro dynamic impact to the Turkish society? I feel the Europeans want someone to carry the enormous burden at stakes when dealing with migration of Africans, Asians and other asylum seekers as a"GATEKEEPER" and snatch some Turkish $ reserved

Pawel Bury

12/17/2013 8:37:37 AM

@dogan, Turks are responsible for these problems. They will now have to take this responsibility and stop sending immigrants around Europe. Keep them inside Turkey, send them back to wherever they came from if they are not Turkish, who cares? Just stop exporting your problem to others.
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