Friday

29th Jul 2016

Turkey hopes for EU visa breakthrough this week

  • Yenel: 'It will be a game changer' (Photo: svenwerk)

Turkey is aiming to tell its 75 million citizens on Thursday (21 June) they can visit the EU without visas in a couple of years' time.

The breakthrough concerns a technical step designed to end a toxic stalemate.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The EU had in the past said Turkey must first sign a readmission agreement on illegal migrants, while Turkey had said the EU should make the first move.

But on Wednesday, EU ambassadors are expected to task the European Commission with drafting an Action Plan for Turkish reforms on passport and border standards.

The sequence of events is to see EU employment ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday rubber stamp the move. Turkey will the same day initial the readmission pact.

When the commission puts forward the Action Plan, Turkey will sign the readmission deal. When the reforms are implemented (in 2014 or 2015), the visa regime will be lifted.

An EU Council source said Austria, Cyprus and France still have "reservations," but there is sufficient "pressure" for them to back down.

"It's a little courageous to say that we are absolutely sure. But we are hopeful," Preben Aamann, the Danish EU presidency spokesman, told this website.

"It will be a game changer. We hope to show that the EU is still relevant for Turkey," Selim Yenel, Turkey's EU ambassador, told EUobserver.

He noted that visa queues at EU consulates and two years of stalled accession talks have "poisoned" relations.

"Nobody cares any more what the EU says ... There are very few people who think that accession will ever happen and people are saying that if they don't want us, why do we actually need them?" he said.

With Cyprus to hold the EU chairmanship from July to December there is no prospect of unfreezing accession talks for now.

But Yenel hopes to open three new chapters - on economic policy, institutions and "any other business" - under the Irish EU presidency in 2013.

He said former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy was blocking the chapters for unspecified "personal reasons" and in order to curry favour with right-wing voters.

But with elections out of the way, French President Francois Hollande's people have given "signals" that the blockage will be lifted.

In terms of bilateral relations with its EU neighbours, Turkey is wary of the new Greek leader, Antonis Samaras.

"He was a difficult person in the past. We hope he will not be so when he is Prime Minister, but when he was foreign minister, he had problems with Macedonia and with us," Yenel said.

He had nothing nice to say about Cyprus.

Noting that Nicosia is poised to borrow even more money from Moscow to prop up its banks, he said its relationship with Russia is bad for EU values.

"They've been very cozy with the Russians, a lot of the illegal gains [of Russian businessmen] have been whitewashed on the island," he said.

"We have seen some ships that have gone to Cyprus and then to Syria without being checked. We're surprised how lenient the EU has been on this. It's unbelievable," he added, referring to Russian arms shipments to Syria which refuelled in Cyprus despite EU sanctions.

Correction: this story was altered on 19 July 2012. The original said the Turkish population is 80 million people

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceThe Trans Adriatic Pipeline: An Opportunity or a Scam in the Making for Albania?
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen: I Condemn All Threats to Turkey's Democracy
  3. GoogleHelping Emergency Services Find You When You Need It Most
  4. Counter BalanceWhat's New in the Investment Plan for Europe: Business as Usual or True Innovation ?
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  6. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  7. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  8. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  11. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  12. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children