17 August 2018

Turkey has met conditions for EU visa liberalization: Erdogan's spokesman

KONFRONTASI - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman says the country has met all 72 requirements laid down by the European Union to get the EU’s visa-free waiver program.

Ibrahim Kalin said in a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday that Turkey had handed over all the related documents to EU officials.

He also expressed hope that the EU would grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens within the 28-nation bloc’s Schengen area in 2018, noting that it would give "a new momentum to Turkish-EU relations."

In March 2016, Turkey and the EU sealed a controversial deal intended to stem the flow of refugees from Syria and other troubled countries to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara, including visa liberalization. Ankara, however, failed to meet the 72 conditions demanded by the EU before the visa exemption was approved, including changing anti-terror laws linked to a 2016 government crackdown.

Plainclothes policemen detain a protester during a demonstration in support of a teacher and an academic on a hunger strike in central Ankara, Turkey, November 9, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Kalin said all outstanding criteria had been met, giving no further details.

Turkey is required to narrow its legal definition of terrorism to gain visa liberalization for its 79 million nationals to the Schengen zone. Turkish officials have repeatedly dismissed EU demands.

"Certain arrangements were made in a way that will not pave the way for the weakening Turkey's struggle against terrorism and these were submitted to the EU," Kalin said.

The news comes ahead of an EU-Turkey summit scheduled for March.

The European Commission confirmed Wednesday that Erdogan will meet in the Bulgarian city of Varna on March 26 with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency.

Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said the meeting would focus on "subjects of mutual interest and recent developments in Turkey. That includes obviously the rule of law and fundamental rights."

The EU has expressed concern over Turkey's crackdown that followed the failed 2016 coup and Ankara's military operation against US-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria.[ptv]