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29 Sep 2018

Erdogan: Visa liberalization will benefit both Turkey and the EU

the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip ErdoganDuring an official visit to Berlin last Friday, the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has brought up the issue of visa liberalization among others. Erdogan paid a state visit in Berlin in a bid to mend relations with Germany after recent disputes between both countries.

On the second day of his visit, Erdogan raised the issue of visa liberalization, claiming that his country would move to fulfill the remaining criteria set by the EU to Turkey, to achieve visa liberalization.

“We are planning to fulfil the remaining six criteria for visa liberalization as soon as possible. Visa liberalization, updating the customs union and reviving accession talks will benefit both Turkey and the EU,” Erdogan said.

Turkey’s visa liberalization process

The European Union had launched visa liberalization process with Turkey in December 2013. The dialogue was based on a roadmap containing 72 requirements Turkey had to fulfill in order to achieve a visa-free regime for its residents. Since then, the EU commission adopted three reports on Turkey’s progress on fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalization roadmap. The reports were adopted in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively.

The move to lift the visa regime for Turkish citizens started in early 2016 as part of a broader migrant swap agreement with Ankara that aimed to prevent the flows of Syrian refugees into Greece.

On May 2016, the European Commission proposed to the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament to lift the visa regime for the citizens of Turkey, upon the fulfillment of the remaining requirements. At the time, five more benchmarks remained to be fully completed.

The initial plan aimed to lift the visa regime by the end of the same year, but a failed military coup in mid-July hindered the process. The state-orchestrated putsch resulted in tens of thousands of people incarcerated and dismissed from their posts.

Among of the factors that have halted visa liberalization for Turkey are Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation, the deal with the European Police Service (Europol), and regulations on the protection of personal data with priority, as the three main benchmarks that Turkey has to fulfill out of the remaining.

In early February, Turkish EU ambassador, Faruk Kaymakci had submitted the draft documents to the EU Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, after the Turkish government asserted that all the outstanding criteria had been met. However, a recent EU report approved with the majority vote of the European Parliament, earlier in July, suggests that Turkey will not be able to get its much sought-after visa liberalization, even if it has met all the other benchmarks, unless it recognizes the Republic of Cyprus as an independent country.

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