Turkey readies position paper for visa exemption dialogue with EU

Turkey readies position paper for visa exemption dialogue with EU

Güven Özalp - BRUSSELS
Turkey readies position paper for visa exemption dialogue with EU

Turkey has taken a critical step to revitalize the process of visa exemption for Turkish citizens in the Schengen area, which is among the most important bilateral topics with the European Union.

Ankara, which in recent years has not made any attempt to launch the visa liberalization dialogue with the EU, despite Brussels’s suggestions on the last seven “benchmarks,” has set the approach and outlined steps to complete the required “benchmarks.”

Turkey’s position document, which was drafted after a meeting between foreign, interior and justice ministers and EU ministers on Nov. 29, will be submitted to the EU soon after the completion of the approval process in Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will give the final word before Ankara passes the document to the European Commission.

It is likely that the document will be submitted to Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the EU Commission in Brussels, during a lunch Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will attend on Dec. 12 upon the invitation of EU foreign ministers.

The most challenging benchmark was the change in the law on fighting terrorism.

Ankara wants to ensure changes to this law do not weaken the fight against terrorism or change the nature of the related legislation.

Turkey intends to propose a formula that would result in the technical fulfillment of the benchmark rather than a comprehensive amendment.

Despite all the negativities in the Ankara-Brussels line, Turkey bringing visa exemption to the agenda again after a long period of time is seen as a sign of “remarkable normalization.”

A migration deal between Turkey and the EU in 2016 included visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area. But the visa-free deal has not been implemented due to Turkey’s anti-terror law, which is among the EU’s benchmarks.

According to the European Commission, to get the visa waiver Ankara needs to fulfill seven outstanding criteria out of a total of 72, including “revising legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards.”

So far, Turkey has rejected making changes to its anti-terror law, stating that it is under attack from the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).