Tuesday

18th Feb 2020

EU advances Turkey visa deal amid migration fears

  • The visa-free deal is the main benefit of the EU-Turkey migrant accord as far as Turkish voters are concerned (Photo: Ataturk airport)

The European Commission will say this week that Turkey has broadly met conditions for visa-free travel, despite some missing elements.

The visa decision is the “cornerstone” of an EU deal to send back migrants to Turkey. But concerns over irregular migration are likely to see internal EU border checks kept in place.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or join as a group

An EU source told EUobserver on Monday (2 May): “They [the commission] will issue a positive recommendation. But it remains to be seen what kind of legal formulas and tricks they will use to justify the move.”

Speaking to EUobserver from Turkey also on Monday, Sinan Ulgen the head of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics, said: “The general understanding is that the commission will propose visa liberalisation even though Turkey has not met all the criteria.”

The commission had given Turkey a list of 72 benchmarks.

Among those that Turkey is supposed to implement by the end of June, when the visa perks are due to start, are revising anti-terrorism laws to protect minority rights and launching judicial cooperation with Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognise as a sovereign state.

Others include extending EU data-protection standards to its security services, increasing transparency of funding for political parties and giving Cypriot nationals free access to Turkey.

Ulgen said Cypriot judicial cooperation and counter-terrorism reforms would be the hardest in political terms, the latter “because it comes at a time when Turkey is facing a wave of terrorist attacks by the PKK and Islamic State.”

The PKK is a militant Kurdish group. Islamic State is a jihadist group based in Iraq and Syria.

Ulgen added that visa-free travel was a “cornerstone” of the migrant deal and said Ankara was serious when it said it would stop migrant readmissions unless it got the travel perks.

“The other components of the deal have to do with improving conditions for Syrians. But Syrians do not vote [in Turkey] and the visa agreement is the main benefit of the accord as far as Turkish people are concerned,” he said.

The commission recommendation must be approved by a majority of EU states and by MEPs.

It comes at a time of heightened sensitivity on immigration in Europe.

Manfred Weber, a senior German MEP, told the Reuters news agency: "There will be no refugee discount ... We'll look cool-headedly in parliament at whether Turkey has fulfilled the conditions for visa liberalisation.”

In a reflection of the mood, France and Germany have proposed to make it easier to suspend visa-free travel deals to the EU in future if they are abused.

But Selim Yenel, Turkey’s ambassador to the EU, told Reuters: “The Franco-German proposal aims at appeasing the possible fears of some EU nations and perhaps make it easier to win the support of some members states.”

Several EU states over the past six months introduced border checks inside the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone to regain control over irregular migration.

The temporary checks are to expire on 12 May.

EU commissioner Frans Timmermans told German radio on Sunday the EU needs to get back to normal on free movement.

But one day earlier, five EU states - Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden - asked the commission in a joint letter to extend the possibility of border checks for another six months.

They said, according to German daily Die Welt, that border control on the EU’s external frontiers had improved but there were “ongoing failures”.

Analysis

How the EU helped erode Turkish democracy

By neglecting Turkey for years and by failing to find its own solution on refugees the EU lost leverage on Turkey and finds itself played "like a yoyo" by its hardman leader.

Asylum seeker stuck almost three years in Moria camp

Anny Nganga, an asylum seeker from DR Congo, has been surviving for almost three years in Moria, a camp on Lesbos island that was recently described as the "single most worrying fundamental rights issue anywhere in the European Union".

NGO rescue boats do not receive Frontex alerts

Rescue boat Sea-Watch doesn't receive alerts from the EU's border agency, Frontex whenever its surveillance aircraft spots migrants in distress at sea. Frontex says it follows procedures, which Oxfam calls a carefully-crafted plan to prevent people from arriving.

EU not prepared for 2015 repeat, warns migration chief

The Vienna-based International Centre for Migration Policy Development is predicting possible migration flashpoints in Iran, Libya and South America over the next 12 months. Its director-general Michael Spindelegger says EU states are not prepared for a repeat of 2015.

News in Brief

  1. EU budget to introduce rule-of-law condition
  2. Far-right rally meets counter protests in Dresden
  3. Chief negotiator: UK will not align with EU standards
  4. Budget commissioner sold off energy shares in January
  5. German far-right group 'planned mosque attacks'
  6. German family minister urges gender quotas in boardrooms
  7. Decision on Catalan MEPs' extradition postponed again
  8. German court orders Tesla to stop cutting down trees

Opinion

Europe's migration system is broken: Renew has a plan

The failure of successful integration of migrants and refugees granted stay in Europe puts the entire asylum and migration policy at risk. Member states have to step up their integration policies.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us