Turkey’s anti-terror law to be amended for EU visa deal: Officials
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
Turkey has submitted a proposal to overcome a longstanding stalemate over its definition of terrorism with the EU for the realization of visa-free travel for its nationals wanting to travel to the Schengen zone, ahead of an EU-Turkey summit in March, senior Turkish officials announced on Feb. 7.
“Certain arrangements were made in a way that will not pave to way to weaken Turkey’s struggle against terrorism and these were submitted to the EU,” İbrahim Kalın, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said at a press briefing on Feb. 7.
Turkey’s Permanent Representative to the EU Faruk Kaymakçı delivered the position paper of Ankara to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans on Feb. 7, EU sources told Hürriyet Daily News.
Ankara was planning to submit the proposal one year ago, but a terror attack on New Year’s revelers at the Reina nightclub in Istanbul in the early hours of 2017 led to the postponement of an amendment in the country’s anti-terror law.
The most challenging benchmark for Turkey was the change in the law on counter-terrorism.
The Turkish government pledged to a change in its anti-terror law “in a way that the law will re-express itself,” a Turkish official told Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity. But the amendment will “not inconvenience us, will not negatively affect our struggle against terror, but we think it will be accepted by the EU,” the official added.
Turkey’s proposal envisages a formula that would result in the technical fulfillment of the benchmark rather than a comprehensive amendment.
“It’s a configuration of law,” another Turkish official said, declining to identify the change as a “legislative amendment.”
There are a few changes in the document compared to the one prepared last year, according to the official. Ankara expects the visa liberalization process to finalize in one or one-a-half-year period at most.
Ankara has not made any attempts to launch the visa liberalization dialogue with the EU since 2016, despite suggestions from Brussels that outlined steps required to fulfill the last seven benchmarks.
“The ball is now in the EU’s court,” Çavuşoğlu had said in a televised interview.
Turkey has met all benchmarks to be fulfilled in order to launch the visa liberalization process, but Brussels says Ankara met only 65, Çavuşoğlu also said.
“We have fulfilled the 72 benchmarks according to our terms,” he stated.
Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said Ankara had fulfilled all of the obligations regarding visa liberalization.
“Turkey has met all 72 requirements for the deal,” he said on Feb. 7, adding that Ankara had also proposed a summit between the EU and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the provisional date of June 2018.
“Such a summit might be productive in terms of delivering a global message,” he noted.
Kalın said he hoped the right to visa-free travel would be implemented in 2018, adding that it would give “a new momentum to Turkish-EU relations.
“Out of the 71 articles, we completed 66 of them, and are waiting for the EU to fulfill some of them; for example, sharing the refugee burden. We are aware of the EU’s expectations from Turkey, such as the anti-terror law for which they think we should draw a balanced line between security and freedoms, rather than focus on security. We are aiming for that as well,” Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told reporters on Jan. 26.
A migration deal between Turkey and the EU in 2016 consisted of visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area. But the visa-free deal had 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 by the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).