Turkey to make ‘final offer’ to EU on visa-free travel after referendum: Turkish FM
Turkey will offer a “final” deal to the European Union on visa-free travel after the April 16 referendum on whether to shift to an executive presidential system of government, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu stated on April 13.
“We will submit our final offer to the EU after April 16,” Çavuşoğlu said at a meeting in the Mediterranean province of Antalya, adding that Ankara wants to “resolve the problem that halted visa liberalization dialogue with the EU.”
“We will decide [after the referendum] how to proceed and make our decisions publicly known,” he said.
Turkey has the right to obtain the visa liberalization as “it was part of the migrant deal” signed between Ankara and Brussels, which also includes the readmission agreement on refugees fleeing to Europe, Çavuşoğlu claimed, noting that although Turkey is a candidate country negotiating for membership of the EU, Brussels has moved to lift visa procedures with other countries that are not even having membership talks.
Turkey and the EU will resume talks after April 16 aiming to upgrade Customs Union, the minister added, recalling that three rounds of discussions had been conducted so far.
According to a European Commission report released last month, to get the visa waiver Ankara needs to fulfill seven outstanding criteria out of a total of 72, including “revising legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards.”
The March 2016 deal also envisaged a “one-for-one” formula under which failed asylum-seekers in Europe would be returned to Turkey, while Syrian refugees would be resettled in EU states under a quota system.
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.
Under the deal, Turkey agreed to take back illegal migrants and refugees leaving its shores for Greece in return for aid. The deal has slashed the number of migrants reaching the EU, but the visa-free deal has not been implemented due to Turkey’s anti-terror law, which is among benchmarks of the EU.
Turkey has rejected making changes to its anti-terror law, stating that it is under attack from the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETO), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Ankara has reportedly prepared a proposal of legislative changes to meet seven benchmarks of the EU, but is delaying submitting it to the EU until after April 16.