EU signals easy visa plan
EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem. AFP photoThe European Union could finally give the green light to planned visa liberalization with Turkey this week, potentially ending a lengthy and politically sensitive stalemate.
The EU has been waiting for Turkey to sign a readmission agreement on illegal migrants, the text of which the two parties negotiated last year. But Turkey has so far refused to sign it in the absence of visa liberalization guarantees for its citizens.
Denmark, the current EU term president, is aiming to overcome the deadlock by the end of its presidency at the end of June, after which the EU post will be passed on to Greek Cyprus.
The member states’ ambassadors were expected to give the European Commission the mandate yesterday to start drafting an action plan toward visa-free travel for Turkey. The actual breakthrough could come today if the Social Affairs Council formally approves the move.
“We are hoping to finalize it soon,” the Danish EU presidency’s spokesperson told Europolitics. French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have also approved the process, according to daily Hürriyet.
“It will be a game changer. We hope to show that the EU is still relevant for Turkey,” Selim Yenel, Turkey’s EU ambassador, told EUobserver. He said visa queues at EU consulates and two years of stalled accession talks have “poisoned” relations.
If and as soon as the council gives the mandate to draft the road map, Turkey will initial the readmission agreement. Once the road map is officially presented, Turkey will sign the agreement. The assumption is that Turkey will be able to implement the necessary reforms by 2014 or 2015, leading to visa-free travel for its citizens.
According to the liberalization process, journalists, businessman, artists and sportsman will be given to two-year to five-year visas.