Turkey expects visa-free travel decision from Europe
BRUSSELS / ANKARATurkey is expecting a big step from the European Union on May 4 toward ending visa requirements for Turkish citizens, as a deal to get Turkey to stop migrants from entering the bloc gathers pace.
The EU’s executive commission is expected to invite member states and lawmakers to vote before the end of June to lift visas on Turks for short-term leisure or business stays.
As of March 4, Turkey had met only around half of the 72 conditions attached to the deal, but top Turkish officials have said the country closed the gap in eight weeks.
“It is obvious that we have been engaged in a sincere effort to take steps on issues under our responsibility by making parliament work as fast as possible,” said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş after a cabinet meeting on May 2.
“I think this will be observed by sincere politicians in Europe,” he said, adding that only a few criteria might have been left before the deadline.
“I hope no one will use this as an excuse against Turkey,” he said.
The commission lauded a decree from Ankara on May 3 to grant visa-free travel in Turkey to the citizens of all 28 EU member states as meeting “one more of the important benchmarks” for visa liberalization.
Volkan Bozkır, Turkey’s EU minister, had previously said Turkish nationals could expect visa-free travel to the EU by the end of June.
The EU was set to give a “conditional” approval for visa-free access to the Schengen zone, sources told AFP.
The commission will say Turkey must still meet further measures to access the Schengen area without visas by June, the agency quoted sources as saying.
Ankara had demanded that the visa requirement be scrapped in exchange for taking back migrants who land in Greece under a deal signed in March, but there are still widespread concerns among EU states, especially over human rights issues in Turkey.
“The commission will put forward a plan to include Turkey in the list of countries exempted from visas,” a European source told AFP, adding that “only 64 out of the 72 criteria are fulfilled” and that the offer, therefore, remains conditional.
EU member states and the European Parliament must still approve the Turkey visa plan after it clears the commission, which is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Turkey has pressed the EU to respect its promises over what the government in Ankara regards as a big win from the migrant deal signed at a summit on March 18.
Germany and France have proposed an emergency brake or “snap back mechanism” under which it could 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.