Friday

19th Jul 2019

Migrant deal: MEPs sceptical over Turkey visa concessions

  • Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Visa liberalisation for Turkey might be proposed by the commission as early as May. (Photo: Ataturk airport)

MEPs have expressed scepticism at the fast pace of visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens, amid expectations that the process to lift visa requirements in return for help with migrants could begin in early May.

Lawmakers described the EU commission’s presentation on Turkey’s efforts to fulfil the benchmarks for visa-free travel to the passport-free Schengen zone as “over-optimistic”.

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

In a first assessment of the implementation of last month's EU-Turkey agreement to manage the refugee crisis, published on Wednesday (20 April), the commission said that Turkey was doing what was expected.

“So far it goes well,” EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told journalists.

The commission has pledged that it will not water down the 72 criteria needed for the visa waiver, but has also suggested it will propose visa liberalisation in early May.

The final decision to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens will be made by EU countries and has to be signed off by the European Parliament.

On Monday, Turkey warned that if visa-free travel was not introduced by the end of June, it would not stick to its part of the deal.

'Blackmail exercise'

At a hearing Thursday morning, EU commission official Marta Cygan told MEPs in the civil liberties committee that fulfilment of requirements was “quite advanced”, but that Turkish authorities still needed to tackle several issues.

Ankara has to start issuing biometric travel documents that include the fingerprints of the holder, and share information on forged documents with EU states.

Cygan reminded MEPs that 11 states still needed visas to enter Turkey, saying these requirements must be lifted.

Turkish authorities also need to bring in line several rules with EU law and European standards on human trafficking, cyber-crime, anti-corruption and anti-discrimination.

Sophia in 't Veld from the liberal ALDE group said she was in favour of visa liberalisation, but the commission’s approach was wrong.

“We are mixing things up. We do get the impression that we are selling out a little bit here,” she said adding that the Turkish government was engaging in a “blackmail exercise”.

She said: “I don't understand why all of the sudden everything is possible, why wasn’t it possible a year ago?”

She added that the criteria should not be watered down for Turkey, as it would set a precedent.

Barbara Spinelli, an MEP with the left-wing GUE group, said the language used by the commission suggested they believed they were “living in the best possible worlds”, as in Voltaire’s Candide, an 18th century satire on optimism.

“There are wars going on,” she reminded MEPs, adding that the commission’s assessment on Turkey was over-optimistic.

Cygan defended the commission’s line, saying the methodology of visa liberalisation had not changed and the criteria had not been relaxed, but she added that the visa issue had now become an element of the general relations with Turkey.

Turkey edges closer to EU visa-free travel

The EU commission suggested it could propose visa-free travel for Turkish citizens on 4 May, if all requirements are met. Member states pledged to accelerate the procedure, but reservations remain.

Turkish PM issues EU visa ultimatum

Turkey wants guarantees visas will be lifted on its nationals in the passport-free Schengen zone by June or it won't stick to its side of the agreement in the EU-Turkey migration deal.

EU-Turkey deal gets reality check

The EU-Turkey deal that came into force on Sunday has not deterred migrants crossing the Aegean sea on its first day. But it raises many questions as Greek and Turkish legal frameworks still need to be set up.

Top MEP: EU 'must ensure visa waivers can be halted'

Manfred Weber, leader of the conservative MEP bloc, urges the EU to ensure it can suspend visa-waiver schemes, as the commission moves closer to recommending visa-free travel for Turkey.

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.

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans: von der Leyen will be tough on rule of law
  2. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  3. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  4. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  5. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  6. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  7. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  8. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us