Friday

22nd Nov 2019

Turkey starts visa-free talks with EU

  • The EU is reluctant to speculate on how long the visa talks could take (Photo: svenwerk)

Turkey is starting visa liberalisation talks with the EU, a first step in a process that could last years.

"This is a historic day for the Turkish people and the EU," Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a joint press conference with two EU commissioners in Brussels.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Davutoglu said the talks, due to kick off in Ankara on 16 December, should not last longer than three years, after which Turkish citizens will be able to travel visa-free to the EU.

But EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who was standing beside Davutoglu, would not be drawn on a timeframe.

"It is a bit too early to set a date when Turkish citizens will travel freely. Nobody has any reason to delay it, but there is a process that has to go through first," she said.

The deal became possible after Turkey agreed to sign a readmission agreement with the EU, allowing irregular migrants to be sent back to Turkey.

Greece and Bulgaria in recent months have been pushing back people, including Syrian refugees, to the Turkish border, but there is no formal agreement for Ankara to take them back.

Malmstrom said more "technical aid" would be also part of the deal. She thanked Turkey for having hosted hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

"We have to commend Turkey for taking responsibility for people in need," Malmstrom said.

Turkey is an official candidate country negotiating the terms of EU membership since 2005. But its talks have been lengthier and more complex than with any other EU-hopeful country.

Germany and France have insisted that the talks be "open-ended" meaning the country will not automatically become a member state at the end of negotiations.

A brutal crackdown on protesters earlier this year put the talks on freeze until October. They resumed, but several so-called negotiation chapters are permanently blocked by Cyprus, whose northern part is recognised only by Ankara.

Starting visa freedom talks puts Turkey in the same boat as other "neighbourhood" countries who have even more distant membership prospects: Moldova and Georgia.

"We have all worked hard for this important part of the positive agenda with Turkey aimed to inject new dynamism in our relationship," EU neighbourhood policy commissioner Stefan Fuele said.

Exclusive

France unveils new model EU enlargement

Western Balkan countries should become EU members via a new, step-by-step process, France has said in a detailed proposal seen by EUobserver.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Opinion

EU report recognises Albania's achievements

Albania currently faces a serious crisis, which it would be foolish for all actors in the international community to ignore. Yet we must ask that our partners in Europe read Federica Mogherini's report carefully and recognise accomplishments.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us