Ministers welcome visa-free travel propose for Turks

Turkish FM Cavusoglu and EU Minister Bozkir say they are satisfied with proposal for visa-free travel in Schengen countries.

Ministers welcome visa-free travel propose for Turks


Turkish cabinet ministers voiced satisfaction Wednesday with the European Commission's proposal for visa-free travel for Turks in Schengen zone countries.

At a joint press conference at the EU Ministry headquarters in Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and EU Minister Volkan Bozkir took journalists' questions about today’s dramatic developments.

Speaking first, Bozkir said that Turkey is in "a very crucial position at the current point," adding that "hopefully" Turkey will finish the entire legal process by the end of June.

"Our institutions worked tremendously and in total coordination to get this work done," he said. "For some countries this looks unachievable. But we got this miraculous thing done."

The European Commission recommended Wednesday visa-free travel inside Europe’s Schengen borderless zone for around 80 million Turkish citizens.

Speaking next, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu declared the news "satisfying", adding that Turkish citizens already "deserved to travel in Europe visa-free".

"Hopefully Today's report will be passed by the European Commission and the European Parliament, and we will finish our passport requirements accordingly," he said.

Turkey must also begin the use of biometric passports with both the facial image and fingerprints of passport holders who want to travel visa-free travel to the Schengen area.

In order for the visa waivers to take effect in July, the commission’s recommendation must first be approved by the European Parliament and EU member states, which have relied heavily on Turkey to stem the flow of refugees seeking to enter Europe.

When asked whether Ankara is ready to issue passports with the required technical details, Cavusoglu said there would be "no problem delivering the passports needed".

"Our institutions are ready to issue biometric passports with fingerprint chips on them by the beginning of June," Cavusoglu said.

When asked whether Turkey will have problems fulfilling the necessary benchmarks by the end of June, Bozkir said the 72 benchmarks of the European Commission are not "direct mathematics".

Turkey has five benchmarks, out of an initial total of 72, to fulfill by the end of June, according to the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body.

"We sometimes managed to introduce a law and fulfilled nine expectations, and sometimes we introduced five laws just to meet one expectation," Bozkir said. "The European Commission's report suggested visa-free travel for Turks into Schengen countries, which means Turkey is doing its part."

The remaining five benchmarks touch on issues such as anti-corruption measures, data protection in line with EU standards, cooperation with the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol, judicial cooperation on criminal matters with all EU member states, and "revising the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards".

"There is still work to be done as a matter of urgency, but if Turkey sustains the progress made, they can meet the remaining benchmarks," European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said in Brussels on Wednesday.

On social media hub Twitter, he wrote, "No Turkish citizen will enter the EU visa-free without a biometric passport," which Turkey will deal with over the next month.

Bozkir also shared his schedule for the next week, saying that next Wednesday he will meet with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and other EP officials to "exchange views".

"Next Friday, I will attend a political dialogue meeting with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, European Commissioner [for Enlargement Negotiations] Johannes Hahn, and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini," Bozkir said.

Meanwhile Deputy PM Numan Kurtulmus said, "An important part of the steps were already taken as the deal with the European Union requires. Turkey has showed its good intentions and its sincerity on this matter. I hope that we can overcome this issue easily."

Citizens of most EU member states in the Schengen borderless zone are already exempt from obtaining a visa before visiting Turkey, with the exception of citizens of Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain.

Some EU member states, including the U.K. and Ireland, are not part of the Schengen zone and are therefore exempt from the visa freedom agreement and continue to require Turkish citizens to obtain visas before visiting.

Visa exemptions will also apply to the four Schengen-associated countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, according to the European Commission.

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