Turkish government sure of visa-free travel to EU in June
İsmet Berkan – STRASBOURGThe Turkish government is certain it will obtain the right to visa-free travel for its citizens from the European Union in June within the scope of a Turkey-EU deal reached in March.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkish citizens would be granted visa-free travel in June after Turkey completes the necessary requirements as part of the deal.
“My friends, we will get the visa liberalization in June. God willing,” Davutoğlu told reporters April 19 en route to Ankara from Strasbourg, where he addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
“We have covered a serious distance about the visa liberalization criteria. I talked to [European Commission President Jean-Claude] Juncker. Nobody was expecting such a high performance,” said Davutoğlu.
“There were 72 criteria, now it has down to the single-digit level,” the prime minister also added.
Davutoğlu said the relevant laws on political ethics and the return of criminals were currently at parliament, adding that they aimed at passing eight international agreements through a parliamentary commission.
“[Turkish EU Minister] Volkan Bozkır has a list in his hand; we always tick the items off the list,” said Davutoğlu. “At every cabinet meeting, I ask where we are [in the process of the meeting of the necessary criteria].”
The Turkey-EU deal reached on March 18 in order to curb the migrant flow into the bloc, during which Turkey agreed to take back all migrants reaching Greece as of March 20, in return for the EU accepting one Syrian refugee from Turkey for each migrant Turkey takes back from the EU. In addition, the EU promised to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens by June if Turkey meets the necessary requirements and grant a total of 6 million euros to Turkey to improve the living conditions of Syrians in Turkey.
“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,” a joint EU-Turkey statement said after the deal was reached on March 18.
“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.”
“If there is no visa liberalization, then it is not only Turkey that will lose but everyone. For all to win, there is one way: [the EU] should implement visa liberalization and we should implement the readmission agreement,” said Davutoğlu.