EU won't ask Turkey to suspend visa-free travel with 3rd countries

A senior European Union official has said the 27-nation bloc will not ask Turkey to suspend Ankara's open door policy and visa-free agreement with third countries as it engages in the EU visa liberalization process.

EU won't ask Turkey to suspend visa-free travel with 3rd countries

A senior European Union official has said the 27-nation bloc will not ask Turkey to suspend Ankara's open door policy and visa-free agreement with third countries as it engages in the EU visa liberalization process with the eventual aim of eliminating the visa requirement for Turkish nationals.

Jean-Christophe Filori, the head of the Turkey unit at the European Commission's Directorate General for Enlargement, told a group of Turkish reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that Turkey does not have to suspend its visa-waiver regime with non-EU member states in order to qualify for a visa-free regime with the EU.

“We do not ask Turkey to reinstate visa [requirements] with those countries [with which it signed visa waiver deals]. We just want to make sure these [agreements] will not cause trouble for the EU member states,” Filori said.

Turkey has been pursuing aggressive visa-waiver agreements with a number of countries in order to boost its trade and economic ties. Ankara removed visa requirements reciprocally with Russia, Turkey's second largest trading partner after the EU, in 2010. The number of countries that do not require a visa from Turkish nationals has reached 69 with the last agreement signed in April with Mongolia during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's official visit to the country.

Filori said as soon as Turkey signs the Readmission Agreement, the visa liberalization dialogue would be started by the European Commission. In June of last year, the council authorized the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU bloc, to begin talks with Turkey on visa liberalization. The commission presented a roadmap to Turkey for a visa-free regime at the end of November of last year.

Turkey declared its intention to sign by initiating the agreement in February 2011 but is waiting for a parallel process that takes into account Turkey's concerns about the roadmap or an action plan proposed by the EU before signing it. Ankara also made clear that it will not ratify the agreement until it sees practical visa facilitation measures for Turkish citizens.

Turkey is also worried that the agreement will impose a heavy burden on Turkey when it has to take back a large number of irregular immigrants from third countries that use Turkey as a transit point to enter the EU. The Turkish government also has doubts about whether the EU would be serious about eliminating the visa requirement at the end of the process, prompting Ankara to ask for assurances.

Filori said the agreement initially covers only Turkish nationals who entered the Schengen area illegally or whose visa/residency permits have expired. The repatriation of third country nationals will be included after three years.

The EU official hailed the a new Turkish law on foreigners, adopted in the Turkish Parliament in April, saying that it has addressed several issues identified in the commission's roadmap for visa liberalization.

The law has reshaped Turkey's migration and asylum management policies, effectively removing the geographical limitation Turkey had maintained for asylum seekers from non-Western countries in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The new law protects refugees from non-European nations as “conditional refugees” instead of the previous description of “guests,” which was the official description for some 400,000 Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict in Syria.

Filori shied away from giving a date for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals, saying that all depends on how the process is handled by both sides. He underlined that the visa-free regime will be eventually voted on by a qualified majority voting (QMV) in the European Council rather than unanimity, giving it a better chance of approval. The European Council defines the process as “long term,” without any deadline set in advance.

The roadmap outlines specific areas where Turkey should initiate and implement a series of reforms, laws and directives. These include document security, migration management, public order and security and fundamental rights. The progress on the roadmap will be monitored by the commission.

Turkey is the only EU candidate country that has been kept outside the Schengen zone, in violation of the EU's own legal obligations. Even non-candidate countries are currently negotiating for visa-free travel.

Critics say Turkey should not have agreed to negotiate any conditions as visa-free travel is already a right given to Turkish citizens by the Ankara Agreement of 1963 and the Additional Protocol of 1973. Critics also point to the many decisions by European courts that have struck down visa requirements for Turkish citizens under certain conditions.

Last Mod: 16 Mayıs 2013, 13:41
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