Turkey battles to meet criteria for visa-free travel to EU

Turkey battles to meet criteria for visa-free travel to EU

Turkey battles to meet criteria for visa-free travel to EU

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Ahead of a strict deadline, Turkey has legally fulfilled 55 of a total of 72 criteria set by the EU for granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel, according to Mehmet Kasım Gülpınar, the head of the Turkish Parliament’s EU Harmonization Commission.

“According to the situation a week ago, we have legally fulfilled 55 of our liabilities,” Gülpınar said on April 20.

His remarks came as he hosted a delegation of members of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament, led by Michael Stübgen.

“There is not much time left ahead of us but if we proceed at this pace - the target for us was May 1 but it may be May 5 – we are ready to complete these by at least the beginning of May,” ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Gülpınar said.

As of April 8, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said just a quarter of the European Union’s requirements to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel remain to be completed, with 43 criteria finalized.

On April 13, Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said 44 criteria were already finalized and works for conducting the other criteria were ongoing. 

A March 18 accord outlined measures to reduce Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II, including stepped-up checks by Turkey and the return of migrants who land on Greek islands to Turkey.

In return, Turkey is slated to receive benefits, including visa-free travel for its citizens to Europe by June “at the latest.”

The European Commission was scheduled to present its findings on the EU-Turkey agreement on April 20, while the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs will debate the European Commission’s report on Turkey’s progress toward meeting the EU’s requirements for visa liberalization on April 21.

“The fulfillment of the visa liberalization roadmap will be accelerated vis-à-vis all participating Member States with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met. To this end Turkey will take the necessary steps to fulfill the remaining requirements to allow the Commission to make, following the required assessment of compliance with the benchmarks, an appropriate proposal by the end of April on the basis of which the European Parliament and the Council can make a final decision,” said the March 18 joint EU-Turkey statement.

“In order to meet the target of lifting visa requirements by the end of June, Turkey will need to adopt the pending measures in good time,” said the European Commission on March 16, in a statement titled “Six Principles for further developing EU-Turkey Cooperation in tackling the Migration Crisis.”