Turkey proposes new schedule for visa liberalization to EU
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
AFP photoTurkey has proposed that the European Union sets a new schedule for the visa liberalization deal for Turkish citizens, as part of the troubled March 18 deal under which Turkey agreed to halt the flow of Syrian refugees and other migrants into the EU via Greece.
According to the proposal, Turkey and the EU would reschedule the fulfilment of the remaining four benchmarks and implement visa-free travel for Turkish citizens inside the EU’s Schengen Zone, a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“We are giving our last proposal to the EU. We’ll tell them, ‘let’s agree on a new schedule,’” the official said, adding that Ankara would also set a timetable to meet the four remaining criteria.
However, Turkey is insistent on not changing its anti-terror law, despite the fact that it was a prerequisite among the 72 benchmarks necessary to introduce visa-free travel. The issue has caused a rift between Ankara and Brussels, with the former rejecting the timing of such an amendment.
Ankara had previously said the entire deal, which was aimed to be implemented by the end of 2016, would be scrapped if visa liberalization was not granted.
The Turkish government says it is reluctant to amend the law as it is currently fighting a number of terror groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, which the government accuses of orchestrating the July 15 failed coup attempt.
Instead, Ankara proposed monitoring of Council of Europe for its practices under the terror law.
Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March that aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly three million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The March 18 deal also allowed the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.