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European securityEU backs visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to EU zone

Published 4 May 2016

The European Commission has recommended visa-free travel in Europe for Turkish citizens. Turkey still has to meet some of the seventy-two conditions set by the EU. The deal must be approved by the parliaments of all of the EU twenty-eight member states before the 30 June deadline. The lifting of visa requirements for Turkey’s eighty million citizens has been a subject of intense debate among EU member states. Turkey threatened that if the EU and its member states failed to approve the visa deal, Turkey would withdrew from the refugee agreement it had reached with the EU in March.

The European Commission earlier today (Wednesday) recommended that Turkish citizens who wanted to travel to any of the EU member states for short holidays or business trips would be allowed into the EU zone without a visa.

The lifting of the visa requirement, however, would go into effect only if Turkey meets the remaining conditions set by the EC.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager tweeted a picture of the Commission statement, which said: “The European Commission is today proposing to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to lift the visa requirements for the citizens of Turkey, under the understanding that the Turkish authorities will fulfill, as a matter of urgency and as they committed to do so on March 18, 2016, the oustanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalization Roadmap.”

RT reports that following the expected approval by the European Council and Parliament, the EC recommendation will have to be approved by the national parliaments of each EU member state.

The rule is tentatively scheduled to come into effect by 30 June.

There are seventy-two conditions the EC set and which Turkey must meet before visa-free access to the EU is granted to Turkish citizens. Turkey met the first conditions on Tuesday when it waived visa requirements for citizens from all of the EU’s  twenty-eight member states, including Cyprus, the government of which Turkey refuses to recognize.

Turkey made clear on Tuesday that waiving the visa requirement for Cypriots did not mean Turkey was recognizing the Cypriot government.

Among the other conditions Turkey must meet are the issuing biometric travel documents for all Turks, improved border controls and surveillance, cooperation with the EU on crime, and human rights issues linked to anti-terror and discrimination laws.

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,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told journalists in Brussels, saying Turkey was yet to meet five of the seventy-two criteria.

The lifting of visa requirements for Turkey’s eighty million citizens has been a subject of intense debate among EU member states. Turkey threatened that if the EU and its member states failed to approve the visa deal, Turkey would withdrew from the refugee agreement it had reached with the EU in March. That agreement, which is already being implemented, calls on Turkey to take all Syrian refugees arriving in the U zone illegally – in exchange for the EU take one refugee from Turkish camps for every migrant returned to Turkey from mainland Europe.