Turkey, EU launch visa exemption process
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily NewsTurkey and the European Union formally launched the visa exemption process for Turkish citizens on June 20 in a historic move in Ankara-Brussels relations which span nearly half a century. The process is expected to be concluded in a period of two to three years and will allow nearly 75 million Turks to freely travel to countries in the EU.
“This is a historic moment,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in an interview with CNNTürk yesterday, adding that the government will take all measures to speed up the process.
As the European Council authorized the European Commission to start negotiations, Turkey’s permanent representative to the EU put an initial signature on the Readmission Agreement in Brussels yesterday. Turkey had already met three of the criteria sought by the EU by introducing biometric passports, improving its border security standards and signing the Readmission Agreement, which will oblige Turkey to accept illegal immigrants who fled EU countries through Turkey.
“The EU has realized that it cannot lock up Turkey in its borders,” Davutoğlu said. Turkey is now waiting for the EU to prepare an action plan outlining Turkey’s road map. “We want to have it as soon as possible so that we can sign the Readmission Agreement and start to fulfill whatever is necessary on this end,” Davutoğlu said. However, the implementation of the Readmission Agreement will have to wait for the effectuation of visa-exemption for Turkish citizens, he said. The commission is expected to present the action plan in Autumn.
The issue will be discussed today during the Partnership Council meeting between Turkey and the EU where the government will be represented by EU Minister Egemen Bağış.
“We are one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. The EU has to see that visa requirement implemented for Turkish citizens actually harms Europe,” Bağış told reporters after receiving Turkey’s former Ambassador to Damascus Ömer Önhon. “We could say Europe issued a visa for Turkish citizens but that Turkey was at the beginning of the road for a visa-free Europe,” he said.