Ankara wants timetable on visa-free travel to EU

Ankara wants timetable on visa-free travel to EU

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Ankara wants timetable on visa-free travel to EU

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Ankara has demanded the European Union lay down a “concrete road map” for visa liberalization, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Sept. 9 following a proposal by Ankara for an interim formula to meet EU criteria for Turkish citizens’ visa-free travel. 

Ankara proposed that the Council of Europe monitor Turkey’s anti-terror law, which could pave the way for the implementation of a migrant deal that includes a readmission agreement in return for visa liberalization. 

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn made the highest-level EU visit to Turkey since the failed coup attempt to hold a political dialogue meeting between Ankara and Brussels. 

“The key element which we agreed to was that we talk more to each other and a little bit less about each other, showing full respect,” Mogherini said after talks with Çavuşoğlu and EU Minister Ömer Çelik.  

Turkish and EU officials engaged in a war of words over the opening of chapters 23 and 24 of the accession process – encompassing justice and rights and freedom and security – as Çelik accused some member states that said it would take years for Turkey to become a member of holding “double standards.” 

Çelik recalled criticisms from the EU on the state of human rights and the freedom of press and called on the union to discuss the issues in official platforms during the opening of the relevant negotiation chapters 23 and 24. 

Noting that preparations were underway to open the chapters, Hahn referred to the de facto blockage by Greek Cyprus on the opening of the chapters, and said a solution to the Cyprus problem could pave the way for the opening of the chapters. 

Arguing that Cyprus and the EU negotiations were different topics for Ankara, Çavuşoğlu identified the position of the EU as a “weakness.” Hahn, however, objected to the wording and said the situation was rather about the operation of EU institutions.  

Proposal for CoE monitoring on anti-terror law

The Turkish government has also suggested that the Council of Europe monitor the implementation of Turkey’s anti-terror law, but the union has yet to give a response, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that the issue would be discussed at a technical level.

If the EU agrees to an interim formula on the anti-terror law, which Turkey has refused to alter due to current security challenges, Ankara anticipates that visas will be liberalized in October, according to a Turkish official. The implementation of the deal would naturally be delayed until the end of the year since Turkey has not instituted the use of new passports, which is another criterion for visa liberalization, said the official. 

Turkey and the EU earlier this year implemented a deal to stem the record flow of migrants to Europe in exchange for billions of euros in aid to Turkey and the lifting of short-term visa requirements on Turkish citizens in October. 

But the EU has failed to change its visa rules, accusing Turkey of refusing to alter its draconian counter-terrorism laws to meet EU political criteria.