Parliament leaves EU deal votes to last day
Gizem Karakış – ANKARATurkey’s Parliament will attempt on May 3 to pass the last laws needed to fulfill 72 criteria before the European Union will consider granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel inside the bloc – just one day ahead of a deadline on the matter.
In a deal reached in mid-March, the EU pledged to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel from July onwards, provided Ankara meets the 72 necessary criteria.
The Turkish Parliament is expected to pass the remaining three clauses for the visa liberalization on May 3, Turkish prime ministerial sources said, the last day before a May 4 deadline, when the European Commission will decide in a report whether or not to recommend visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
The remaining three laws that are awaiting adoption are a law enforcement commission draft, a political ethics law and a readmission decision.
Sources from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said the code on law enforcement, one of the remaining three changes for the EU visa bid, might be voted on at the general assembly in the early hours of May 3.
Some of the articles of the law were adopted in the general assembly last week but there remain 10 articles to be adopted.
The last clauses were expected to be fulfilled last week but were delayed until this week due to the temporary closure of the parliament until May 2 due to a fierce brawl that erupted during a constitutional commission meeting that was discussing legislation on lifting lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution on April 28. The melee left five deputies injured.
Under a Turkey-EU deal reached on March 18, Turkish citizens will receive the right to visa-free travel starting in July on condition that Turkey meets all of the 72 criteria. The deal also pledged accelerated negotiation talks for Turkey with the bloc and a total of 6 million euros of funding by the end of 2018 to be used for increasing the living standards of Syrian refugees in the country.
In exchange for the concessions, Turkey agreed to take all migrants back that reach Greece from March 20 onwards, in exchange for the EU taking one Syrian refugee for every migrant Turkey takes back.
Of the remaining three laws to be adopted, the readmission agreement, which covers the issue of people illegally residing in the EU to be returned to Turkey, is expected to be adopted on May 3.
However, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last week said the readmission agreement would not enter into force until the visa liberalization is realized for Turkish citizens. The planned date for the readmission agreement to enter into force is June 1.
Turkey’s minister for EU affairs and its chief negotiator with the bloc, Volkan Bozkır, is expected to pay a visit to Strasbourg and Brussels next week, Turkish diplomatic sources said.
The commission’s technical approval for visa liberalization is of crucial importance but the process will only be finalized if the European Parliament and the 28 member states of the European Council approve the decision.