Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

EU gives up on Turkey visa deadlines

  • Doubts emerge on when visas will be lifted for Turkish citizens wanting to visit the EU (Photo: EUobserver)

A deadline to grant Turkey visa-free travel to the EU will be missed at the end of the June with no new date announced.

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters on Wednesday (15 June) that he was no longer in a position to say when the restrictions would be lifted.

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"Hopefully it will be done soon but I cannot be more precise," he said.

The visa waivers are part of a broader migrant deal between the EU and Ankara signed off in mid-March. Once granted, it would allow Turkish nationals to visit any of the passport-free Schengen EU states without a visa.

Turkey has met most of the 72 EU requirements for that to happen. But Ankara remains intransigent on EU demands to narrow the definition of terrorism in its anti-terror legislation.

Earlier this week, Turkey's prime minister Binali Yıldırım said Ankara would not budge on the legislation, even if it means scrapping the visa deal.

"We are fighting for our country’s unity and solidarity. Amendments to the anti-terror law under these conditions are out of question for us, even if changes would lead to visa exemptions being granted,” he said.

Turkey insists the law is needed to combat a string of attacks from Kurdish separatists and the Islamic State.

But critics say the law is also being used to jail critics of the government.

In May, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the EU would "close this issue by October at the latest". But this deadline is also now in doubt.

Avramopoulos said: "The final time for visa travel will depend on both when Turkey completes work on the remaining benchmarks and when the co-legislatures ultimately take their decision."

The EU parliament has previously said it will not start work on the file until all benchmarks are sorted.

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