EU delegation holds talks in Turkey on visa waiver, refugees
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Frans Timmermans (Photo: Anadolu Agency)
A delegation from the European Union is currently visiting Ankara for two days of talks on Turkey’s push for visa-free travel and the refugee issue.
A working plan for Turkish citizens to travel to Schengen countries visa-free, submitted by Ankara to Brussels in February, is under examination, with the European Commission conveying its views on the seven outstanding criteria out of a total of 72 that Ankara was expected to fulfill.
“One should not expect an immediate outcome from these talks,” one Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity.
The official pointed at the post-June 24 election period for the EU to take any step regarding the issue.
European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans is expected to pay a visit to Turkey after the talks.
In 2016, Turkey and the EU signed a deal aiming to stem the irregular migration flow through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving conditions for nearly three million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal also allows for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area, on the condition that Ankara meets all 72 requirements set by the EU, including “revising legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards.”
Regulations expected to be fulfilled by Turkey for visa liberalization are as follows: Signing of an operational cooperation agreement with Europol, signing of a legal cooperation agreement with EU member countries, preparing third-generation passports, reviewing the law on the protection of personal data, and reviewing draconian anti-terrorism legislation.
The most challenging benchmark for Turkey is the change in the law on counter-terrorism.
So far, Turkey has rejected making changes to its anti-terror law, arguing that it is under attack by what the Ankara authorities call the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
But in its position paper submitted to the commission on Feb. 7, Turkey proposed to add phrases to its anti-terror law which will mention “within the boundaries of freedom of press, freedom of expression.”