The European Commission (EC) said on May 4 that it was proposing to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union to lift the visa requirements for the citizens of Turkey, “under the understanding that the Turkish authorities will fulfil, as a matter of urgency and as they committed to do so on March 18 2016, the outstanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap”.
The proposal is presented together with a report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of the roadmap.
EC Vice President Frans Timmermans said that Turkey had made “impressive progress, particularly in recent weeks”, on meeting the benchmarks of its visa liberalisation roadmap.
But Timmermans added that there was still work to be done “as a matter of urgency” but if Turkey sustains the progress made, it can meet the remaining benchmarks.
“This is why we are putting a proposal on the table which opens the way for the European Parliament and the Member States to decide to lift visa requirements, once the benchmarks have been met,” he said.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said the Turkish authorities had made remarkable progress since the March 18 EU-Turkey Summit “and we trust Turkey is committed to delivering on all fronts as soon as possible”.
“On the understanding that all benchmarks will be met as a matter of urgency, the Commission has decided to put forward a proposal to transfer Turkey to the list of visa-free countries. Of course, the Commission will continue to monitor the continuous fulfilling of these criteria,” Avramopoulos said.
Visa liberalisation for Turkey is a key component of the EU-Turkey Statement of March 18 which said that the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met.
In order to meet a June deadline for adoption by the co-legislators, a Commission proposal to put Turkey on the visa-free list has to be tabled at the beginning of May to allow an eight-week period to elapse between a draft being made available to national parliaments and its adoption.
The EC said that the progress report that it had adopted on May 4 assesses progress made to date by Turkey in implementing the benchmarks, identifies outstanding benchmarks and sets out the concrete measures that Turkey needs to meet in order to complete the remaining requirements, in areas such as the fight against corruption, data protection, judicial cooperation with all EU member states, enhanced co-operation with Europol and revision of the legislation and practices on terrorism.
“In a number of exceptional cases, the acceleration of the roadmap’s implementation has made completion of some benchmarks, such as a full roll-out of biometric passports and a review of the implementation of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement (fully applicable only as of June 1), impossible to date,” the EC said.
In others, the EC said, the Commission “acknowledges the good progress made by the Turkish authorities so far, and encourages them to urgently step up these efforts to meet all requirements in order to obtain visa liberalisation by the end of June”.
Visa-free travel will apply to all EU member states except for Ireland and the UK, and to the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
The exemption concerns only short stays of up to 90 days (in any 180-day period) for business, tourist or family purposes, among others. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU.
Other entry conditions for accessing the Schengen area will continue to apply, including the need to be able to prove their purpose of travel and sufficient subsidence means.
As for all countries listed in Annex II of the Visa Regulation and whose citizens can travel visa-free to Europe, the safeguard clause introduced in the beginning of 2014 will apply to visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey.
“Taking into account recent discussions with member states on the EU’s visa policy as a whole, the Commission has today proposed to strengthen this suspension mechanism to make it easier for member states to notify circumstances leading to a possible suspension and enabling the Commission to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative,” the EC said.
(Photo: Boy from far, via Wikimedia)