Efforts intensify to save Turkey-EU deal

Efforts intensify to save Turkey-EU deal

Efforts intensify to save Turkey-EU deal

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A “not so optimistic” Turkish EU minister has called on the European Commission to exert efforts to salvage the Turkey-EU visa liberalization deal, while also pledging that Ankara would continue to work on the process. 

“At this point, the topic is locked at the European Parliament. The solution of this [state] lies at the European Commission,” Turkish EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır said May 13 in Brussels. 

On May 11, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said at a press conference alongside Bozkır in Strasbourg that the process at the parliament had been halted because Turkey had not yet fulfilled all of the required benchmarks. 

Bozkır said he had held talks with officials from the commission and asked for the re-assessment of the point where the Turkey-EU visa deal got stuck. He added that the problem could be solved if the commission stated that Turkey had fulfilled the remaining five benchmarks out of a total of 72 needed for Turkish citizens to be exempt from requiring a visa to enter the EU’s Schengen Zone. 

“But unfortunately, after today’s discussions I cannot say that I am very optimistic,” Bozkır said. 

Assessing the situation at EP, Bozkır said it was “not acceptable for Turkey,” adding that the parliament did not legally have the right to halt the process. 

“[The visa-free travel deal] needed to be referred to the commission once again and [the process] needed to continue from there,” he said. 

Bozkır first held talks with the high representative for foreign affairs/vice-president of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, early on May 13, after which he met Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. 

Bozkır said Hahn had told him that it was not possible in the current context for the re-discussion of the five criteria in a political way, in which both sides understood each other and produced a formula for a solution. 
“I take this as the [European] Commission’s view,” Bozkır said. 

Bozkır said he believed removing the major problem in the visa deal process was possible but that these were not the only steps that Turkey would take. Instead, they are reciprocal steps which rest on mutual trust and joint decisions. 

Stating that Turkey would continue its efforts not to jeopardize the visa-free travel opportunity for its citizens, Bozkır said: “We will make a new assessment when we go back to Turkey. We will especially hold consultations regarding what can be done about these five benchmarks.”

On May 4, the European Commission sent the EP and the European Council a report recommending that Turkey be added to the list of countries whose citizens would be exempt from requiring a visa inside the EU. 

In the report, the commission said there were five key criteria left for Turkey to fulfill, of which amendments demanded on the anti-terror law have caused the biggest controversy. 

Other criteria include the completion of flaws in relation to a new data protection law, operational cooperation with Europe’s police agency Europol, implementation of the Group of States against Corruption’s (GRECO) recommendations to combat corruption, and judicial cooperation with all EU member states.