Turkey could get visa free travel to European Union as early as June

by Ray Clancy on May 5, 2016

Turkish citizens should be able to travel to European Union countries, with the exception of the UK and Ireland, as early as June under a landmark new deal.

The European Commission has backed visa free travel for Turkish citizens inside Europe’s passport free Schengen area after the Turkish government threatened to pull out of the migration deal whereby it takes back refugees who have crossed into Europe.

The deal, if approved by the European Parliament, would scrap the requirement for Turks to get a three month, short stay Schengen visa, for tourism or business trips. But it will not grant them the right to get a job in Europe.

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The European Commission has proposed that the agreement is accepted by both the European Parliament and Council of the European Union but added that Turkey must fulfil the outstanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap.

“Turkey has made impressive progress, particularly in recent weeks, on meeting the benchmarks of its visa liberalisation roadmap. 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,” said EC First Vice President Frans Timmermans.

“This is why we are putting a proposal on the table which opens the way for the European Parliament and the Member States to decide to lift visa requirements, once the benchmarks have been met,” he added.

Visa liberalisation for Turkey is a key component of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 which stated that the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met.

In order to meet a June deadline for adoption by the co-legislators, a Commission proposal to put Turkey on the visa free list had to be tabled at the beginning of May to allow an eight week period to elapse between a draft being made available to national Parliaments and its adoption.

In a statement the EC said that if it goes ahead visa free travel will apply to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, and to the four Schengen associated countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The visa will be valid for only short stays of up to 90 days in any 180 day period for business, tourist or family purposes, among others. “The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU. Other entry conditions for accessing the Schengen area will continue to apply, including the need to be able to prove their purpose of travel and sufficient subsidence means,” the statement added.

There are 72 requirements listed in the Roadmap which are organised in five thematic groups: document security; migration management; public order and security; fundamental rights and readmission of irregular migrants.

At the EU-Turkey Summit of 18 March, Turkey committed to accelerating the fulfilment of the Roadmap even further. In the Joint Statement after this meeting, the 28 EU Heads of State or Government committed to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all 72 benchmarks of the Roadmap are fulfilled.

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