EU Recommends Visa-Free Travel for Turkish Citizens

EU | May 4, 2016, Wednesday // 18:04|  views

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks during a news conference at the end of an extraordinary summit of EU leaders with Turkey in Brussels, 8 March 2016. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The European Commission has proposed to the European Parliament and EU governments to scrap visa requirements for Turkish citizens provided that Turkey will fulfil the outstanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap.

European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans commented in a statement on Wednesday that “Turkey has made impressive progress, particularly in recent weeks, on meeting the benchmarks." 

“There is still work to be done as a matter of urgency but if Turkey sustains the progress made, they can meet the remaining benchmarks,” Timmermans added.

According to the European Commission, Turkey has five benchmarks, out of an initial total of 72, to meet by the end of June.

The five benchmarks are related to measures that aim to prevent corruption, ensure data protection in line with EU standards, cooperate with Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, provide for judicial cooperation on criminal matters with all EU member states and bring its laws and practices on terrorism in line with European standards.

Under the proposal unveiled on Wednesday, Turkish citizens will be able to travel without visas to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, and to the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period for business, tourist or family purposes. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU.

The visa waiver has been proposed to Turkey on condition that the country will take back refugees who had reached Greece from its territory via the Aegean Sea.

The EU-Turkey deal was signed on March 18 to tackle the worst  refugee crisis in Europe since WWII. Over a million migrants and refugees, most of them from Syria and Afghanistan, entered Europe last year. 

The EU is relying heavily on the Turkish authorities to stem the flow of migrants and refugees seeking to enter Europe. Turkey has threatened to stop taking back migrants from Greece if the EU fails to deliver on visa liberalisation.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu welcomed the European Commission recommendation on Wednesday, saying the proposed visa-free travel inside EU’s borderless Schengen Area has opened a new page in Turkey's relations with the EU.

The Turkish cabinet on Monday approved waiving visas for visitors from all 28 EU member states, once Europe eases its own visa requirements for Turkish citizens.

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Tags: turkey, visas, waive, waiver, Schengen, visa-free, Timmermans, migrants, refugees, Cavusoglu


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