Turkey faces ‘difficult path’ to EU visa-free travel, says German minister
BERLINTurkey faces a long and arduous path to obtaining visa-free travel within the European Union, and immediate prospects are not bright, Germany’s European affairs minister said on Aug. 16.
Michael Roth told Reuters that it was clear from the start that a migrant deal struck between the EU and Turkey required completion of 72 criteria before Turks could be granted visa-free travel.
“Turkey faces a very long and difficult path. The criteria must be fulfilled, and it doesn’t look good at the moment,” Roth said. “As long as the 72 criteria have not been fulfilled - and a few are still open - there cannot be visa liberalization.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had warned on Aug. 15 that Turkey could walk away from its promise to stem the flow of illegal migrants to Europe if the EU failed to grant Turks visa-free travel to the bloc in October.
At the same time, Roth said it was important to keep open channels of communication with Turkey, which would remain an important partner given the refugee crisis, and because of the presence of over 3 million people in Germany of Turkish descent.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said it was important to continue working with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to ensure his help in dealing with a flood of refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq.
“I absolutely don’t like what Erdoğan is doing, but I don’t agree that ... we should end cooperation with him,” Schäuble told an event in the northern German city of Rostock on the evening of Aug. 16. “It is in our own interest to keep working together.”
Relations between Turkey and the EU have been strained since Brussels pressured Turkey to change its anti-terror law, one of the 72 criteria Turkey needs to fulfill in exchange for Turkish citizens to be granted visa-free travel inside the EU’s Schengen zone. This exchange was reached within the scope of a migrant deal between the sides, in which Turkey would help curb the migrant influx into the bloc in exchange for accelerated membership talks, EU funding for Syrians in Turkey, and visa liberalization for Turkish citizens.
Strained relations have gotten even worse after failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15. Turkey accuses the EU and the West of not giving enough support to the Turkish government after the coup attempt was overcome and being more concerned about the crackdown in the aftermath.
Roth, a member of the center-left Social Democrat junior partners in Merkel’s ruling coalition, said Germany would continue to raise its concerns about Erdoğan’s detention of more than 35,000 people in a crackdown on suspected coup plotters.