Sunday

19th Aug 2018

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. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants
  2. Merkel confronts far-right critics: '2015 will not be repeated'
  3. UN: Predictable disembarkation process urgently needed
  4. Slovenia set to select former comedian as prime minister
  5. Polish president to veto election rule helping big parties
  6. MEPs blast UK 'alphabetical approach' on citizens rights
  7. EU hits back over Salvini's blame for bridge collapse
  8. Poll: Sweden's social democrat-led government set to win again

Opinion

The systemic risk that Europe has to face

One of the biggest systemic risks across Europe, illustrated by Hungary and Poland, is the dominance of the executive power over the judiciary and informal channels of political dependency.

Schengen at stake in Austria-Germany talks

German interior minister Horst Seehofer is in Vienna on Thursday - as his plan to reject some asylum seekers was met by an Austrian threat to close its borders too.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  2. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  3. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  4. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs
  5. Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism
  6. Brexit talks resume as chance of 'no deal' put at 50:50
  7. US trial sheds light on murky Cyprus-Russia links
  8. Burned cars fuel Swedish election debate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us