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16 Apr 2018

Turkey, EU visa liberalization talks accelerate

Turkey, EU visa liberalization talks accelerateMore than two months after Ankara submitted the necessary paperwork regarding visa liberalization for Turkish nationals, and a few weeks after Varna Summit, a European Union delegation will finally travel this month towards Turkey to discuss the issue with Turkish officials, and also to impart Brussels’ views on the technical matters regarding remaining criteria.

The EU delegation be discussing 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.

Currently, thousands remain in prison in Turkey charged with membership to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or FETO which Erdogan accuses for coup d’etat attempt in 2016, under the current terrorism law, Thousands of warrants have been issued for others who live in other countries since the coup, or even before. Human rights groups insiste the Turkish terrorism law is open to abuse.

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The meeting in Turkey, is a follow-up of the Varna summit where the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, as well.

Though prior to the summit, EU officials had foreseen that the talks would be tough, there were still hopes that both pairs would agree on several issues in Varna. However, President Tusk himself announced after the meeting that no compromise was achieved.

“If you are asking me if we achieved some solutions or compromises, my answer is no. What I can say is that I raised all our concerns. As you know it was a long list,” he told journalists.

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.

The move to remove visa requirements for Turkish citizens traveling to the EU started in early 2016 as part of a broader migrant swap agreement with Ankara, which aimed to prevent another flow of Syrian refugees into Greece.

Initially, the visa liberalization agreement between both sides was to be signed in the same year, but a failed military putsch in July impeded the process. The coup resulted in tens of thousands of people imprisoned and dismissed from their posts. The visa issue no longer a priority to Turkey, as Ankara did not want to see alleged Gülenists fleeing the country and escaping prosecution. /AA

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