Will EU agree to visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by the end of June?

In return for its cooperation with EU, Turkey expects among others an agreement on visa-free travel to EU member states by the end of June this year. The European Commission thinks that Turkey is on the right track and is optimistic about the deadline will be met.

On Wednesday (4 May) the Commission proposed to the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to lift the visa requirements for the citizens of Turkey, “under the understanding that the Turkish authorities will fulfil, as a matter of urgency and as they committed to do so on 18 March 2016, the outstanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap.”

In a press release First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Turkey has made impressive progress, particularly in recent weeks, on meeting the benchmarks of its visa liberalisation roadmap. 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.”

He continued that “This is why we are putting a proposal on the table which opens the way for the European Parliament and the Member States to decide to lift visa requirements, once the benchmarks have been met.”

The Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, concurred with Timmermans and praised Turkey for its “remarkable progress since the 18 March EU-Turkey Summit”.

The visa liberalization roadmap consists of 72 requirements or benchmarks organized in five thematic groups: document security; migration management; public order and security; fundamental rights and readmission of irregular migrants.

When the Commission reported in beginning March on the progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements, only about half of them had been fully implemented.

According to the third progress report published today (4 May), Turkey has met 65 of the 72 benchmarks of the roadmap. Only five requirements have not yet been fully fulfilled by the Turkish authorities “but should now be completed as a matter of urgency”.

In addition two benchmarks “could not objectively be completed in the given timeframe” and need a longer timeline for implementation for practical and procedural reasons.

This concerns the upgrading ofthe existing biometric passports so as to include security features in line with the EU standards andimplementing the provisions of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement, including those related to the readmission of third country nationals.

It remains to be seen if Turkey can implement in less than two month the measures that are necessary to complete the outstanding benchmarks of the visa liberalization roadmap. These are, according to the Commission, the following:

  • adopting the measure to prevent corruption foreseen by the Roadmap, ensuring an effective follow-up to the recommendations issued by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO);
  • aligning the legislation on personal data protection with EU standards, notably to ensure that the data protection authority can act in an independent manner and that the activities of law enforcement agencies fall within the scope of the law;
  • concluding an operational cooperation agreement with Europol;
  • offering effective judicial cooperation in criminal matters to all EU Member States;
  • revising the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards, , notably by better aligning the definition of terrorism in order to narrow the scope of the definition and by introducing a criterion of proportionality.

The Brussels Times (Source: European Commission)

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