Friday

1st Jul 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us