Sunday

24th Mar 2019

EP stops work on Turkey visa waiver

  • MEPs are unable to progress on the Commission's proposal to lift visas for Turkey (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

MEPs have stopped work on plans to give Turks visa-free access to the EU’s Schengen zone, putting a wider migrant deal in doubt.

Group leaders in the European Parliament's “conference of presidents” quietly suspended work on the file last Wednesday. Some of the lead MEPs on the dossier, the group coordinators in the civil liberties committee (LIBE), found out about the suspension on Monday (9 May).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"They [EP group leaders] decided to stop the whole thing," the German centre-left coordinator Birgit Sippel told this website on Tuesday.

Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP, said EU parliament chief Martin Schulz suspended it because Turkey had not yet met all EU visa-free criteria.

“Schulz said we will only start processing the file when the 72 criteria have been met,” she said.

An MEP who did not want to be quoted said he’s also doing it to “make the parliament more important.”

Another said the decision will force the EU commission to first deal with all the outstanding issues in the deal before sending it back to the Parliament.

"The ball is back with the European commission," said the MEP, who also did not want to be identified.

The European Commission last week proposed to lift the visa requirement by the end of June. It published an assessment on Turkey's progress and said five out of 72 benchmarks still needed to be met.

Whatever the motives, that proposal is now sitting idly on Schulz’s desk.

If it is not rubber stamped by MEPs and by EU states by the end of next month, then Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to stop taking back migrants from Greece.

Sippel, for one, said the July deadline is unlikely to be met.

“I think no country, whether it’s Turkey or Germany or whoever, could really fufill all the requirements within that short time. It's not possible, especially if you would like to see something not only written down in paper but also decided in parliament and maybe also at least partly put into practice,” she said.

Erdogan himself is not making matters easier.

The EU commission had said in its visa report that Turkey's law on terror allows for an "overly broad" application of the term. Journalists and academics have fallen under its scope.

“The Turkish authorities have not yet addressed these shortcomings," it noted in its report.

Cornelia Ernst, a German MEP from left-wing GUE-NGL group, said “most” members of LIBE think the law must be changed for the visa waiver to go ahead.

But Erdogan has said flat out that he will not do it. He has also forced out of office his EU-friendly PM, Ahmet Davutoglu.

Despite the setback, the EU commission remains optimistic.

"We have an agreement with the Turkish government, we have the word of the Turkish government, and we will continue to work with them," an EU commission spokesman said Tuesday on Erdogan's comments.

EU officials said the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal was ongoing.

Playing down concerns that Davutoglu's exit may upset the accord, an official said the EU started the negotiations with Erdogan and was still talking to him. "It's never been a one person conversation," an official added.

There are daily videoconferences between commission officials and Turkish authorities on the five outstanding visa benchmarks, but an official has said that no new benchmarks have been met since the commission's assessment on 4 May.

According to the latest Frontex figures, on Monday just seven people arrived to the Greek islands via Greece, on Sunday 74, so there is no sign that Erdogan might be trying to put pressure on the EU by letting more migrants cross the Aegean.

Commission officials on Tuesday denied there would be a plan B, as reported in the German media, of turning Greek islands into large refugee camps in case the EU-Turkey deal falls through.

Turkish leader parts way with EU

President Erdogan said that Turkey would not change terror laws as required by the EU to grant visa liberalisation and said the country needed a presidential regime.

EU says Turkey almost ready for visa-free access

First visa-free Turkish visitors to EU possible on 1 July if Turkey meets five more criteria on time. Most Turkish people to face long wait for EU-compliant biometric passports.

Erdogan wants visa-free travel by October

With the July deadline for visa-free travel increasingly unlikely to be met, Turkey's president now says he wants visa-free access by October instead.

Juncker warns Turkey over visas

Turkey will have to reform its anti-terrorism laws or the planned visa-free deal with the EU will fall apart.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us