EU: Turkey visa deal only once ’all criteria met’
Date: 2016-05-04 08:18
Turkey has agreed to abolish visa restrictions for all European Union citizens, including Greek Cypriots, passing one of the last remaining hurdles for it to secure visa-free access to Europe for its own nationals.
The Turkish cabinet late on Monday approved waiving visas for visitors from all 28 EU member states once Europe relaxes its own visa requirements for Turks, according to a decision published in the country’s Official Gazette.
Although the visa waiver will apply to Greek Cypriots, a Turkish official told Reuters that it did not amount to Turkish recognition of Cyprus.
Liberalising visa rules for Turkey, a Muslim country of 79mn people, is a contentious issue among EU states, but Brussels is pushing ahead to keep a migration accord in place that should help ease Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II.
The European Commission is expected to declare that Turkey has broadly met the criteria for visa liberalisation and to ask EU governments and the European Parliament to approve the decision by the end of June.
One of the biggest obstacles in Turkey’s relations with the EU is Ankara’s refusal to recognise EU member Cyprus, the Mediterranean island divided for four decades between the Turkish-controlled north, recognised only by Ankara, and the Greek Cypriot south, which has international recognition.
Cyprus would wait for the assessment review of the European Commission before making any comment, government spokesman Nikos Christodoulides told the Cyprus News Agency.
Turkey has to meet a list of 72 criteria – ranging from biometric passports to respect for human rights – that were set when Brussels and Ankara first talked about 90-day visa-free travel to the Schengen area, Gulf Times reported.