Turkey to insist on 'reasonable' conditions for visa talks at EU meeting

Turkey is the only EU candidate country that has been kept outside the Schengen zone, in violation of the EU's own legal obligations.

Turkey to insist on 'reasonable' conditions for visa talks at EU meeting

In Monday's meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council, the highest decision-making body for relations between the EU and Turkey, in Brussels, Turkey will seek assurances for what Ankara calls an “acceptable and reasonable” roadmap for visa liberalization talks.

According to a draft document obtained by Today's Zaman that details the Turkish position on EU accession talks, Turkey asks the EU to come up with a technical plan that is free from being hostage to the political considerations of some member states. If it does not, Turkey will not be signing the Readmission Agreement, which will govern the return of irregular immigrants from third countries to Turkey when used as a transit country, the document signals.

“As regards the signing of the Turkey-EU Readmission Agreement, we need an acceptable and reasonable roadmap containing objective requirements which would be assessed through a technical monitoring process. The roadmap should be a well-defined technical document free from any political considerations of some member states,” the document said.

Turkey initialed the Readmission Agreement in 2011 but is shying away from signing and ratifying the agreement, saying the EU should start implementing visa facilitation for Turkish citizens with the eventual aim of lifting visa requirements.

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.

“We have initialed the Turkey-EU Readmission Agreement. This is a clear indication of our goodwill. As we had previously underlined, the implementation of the Readmission Agreement for third country nationals should be simultaneous with the start of the visa-free regime for Turkish citizens,” the draft said.

In June 2012, the European Council authorized the European Commission to begin visa liberalization talks with Turkey, and a roadmap was presented to Turkey in November.

However, Turkey has reservations about the roadmap, saying that the prospect of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens may be thwarted due to political opposition from some member states.

Ankara says it has already fulfilled most of the criteria asked by the EU. It adopted secure biometric passports in 2010 and approved the Law on Foreigners and International Protection on April 4, 2013, which was hailed by the EU as significant progress in bringing Turkish legislation into alignment with the EU. Turkey also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with FRONTEX, the EU's border management agency, to enhance cooperation with the EU on border management and migration.

At the 51st meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will chair the Turkish delegation, while the European delegation will be led by Eamon Gilmore, deputy prime minister of Ireland and minister of foreign affairs and trade, and Stefan Füle, commissioner for enlargement and European neighborhood policy.

The council will review progress made by Turkey in complying with the Copenhagen political and economic criteria as well as Turkey's efforts towards alignment with the acquis communautaire since the last Association Council. Relations under the Association Agreement and the customs union will also be evaluated.

In addition to the visa issue, Turkey will demand the lifting of political obstacles in the accession process and the inclusion of Turkey into the decision-making mechanisms of the customs union.

Turkey wants the council to recognize the progress it has made in realigning its legislation with EU standards. In the last year alone, Turkey enacted 27 primary and 219 secondary pieces of legislation to harmonize its code with that of the EU.

Concerned over the stalled accession talks, Turkey has welcomed the opening of Chapter 22 on “regional policy and structural instruments” by the end of June, which will be the first chapter to be opened in three years. The EU informed Turkey in April that the Action Plan, which sets out actions and the time frame regarding the implementation of the EU Cohesion Policy, met the opening benchmark for the Chapter 22 while inviting Turkey to submit its negotiating position paper. Turkey submitted its negotiation position paper on May 7, 2013.

Turkey regrets, however, that 16 out of 20 pending chapters are still blocked on political grounds. It says it is ready to open 10 chapters within a year and 15 chapters in the next year and a half. Ankara is especially interested in opening Chapter 15 on energy, Chapter 17 on economic and monetary policy, Chapter 19 on social policy and employment, Chapter 23 on judiciary and fundamental rights, Chapter 24 on justice, freedom and security, and Chapter 26 on education and culture.

In 2007, the EU Presidency signaled it could open Chapter 17 on economic and monetary policy because there were no technical requirements for opening the chapter. Turkey responded positively in March 2007 by submitting its negotiation position. However, progress was halted due to the unilateral blockage of France, which prevented the EU from forming a common position in order to start preparing the opening of the chapter.

Chapter 15 on energy is also blocked by Greek Cyprus despite the fact that Turkey is a major partner with the EU in the field of energy. On Chapter 19 on social policy and employment, there is no political obstacle but there is a difference of opinion on whether Turkey has satisfied the opening criteria. Ankara said the 2010 public referendum brought significant constitutional changes, followed by two important pieces of legislation on trade union rights. Turkish Minister of Labor and Social Security Faruk Çelik visited Brussels on April 10, 2013 to make Turkey's case on the chapter.

Cihan

Last Mod: 27 Mayıs 2013, 12:33
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