The European Commission is expected to announce Wednesday its support for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and urge European Union states and the European Parliament to formally pass the decision by the end of June. The EU proposed the visa waiver deal to Turkey on condition that the latter take back refugees who crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece, where over 154,000 asylum-seekers have arrived so far this year.
The visa-free travel to the Schengen Area for Turkish citizens will depend on the country’s compliance with all 72 conditions that the EU has outlined. These requirements range from respect for human rights to biometric passports.
Sources told Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the BBC that the commission will back the deal during Wednesday’s announcement.
While the EU is concerned that without the deal, Turkey will not control the refugee crisis in Europe, Ankara, which pushed the EU to respect its promises, considers the visa-waiver system a big win from the deal.
“The Commission will put forward a plan to include Turkey in the list of countries exempted from visas,” a source told AFP, adding that “only 64 out of the 72 criteria are fulfilled” and that the offer, thus, remains conditional.
The EU-Turkey deal was signed on March 18 to tackle the mounting refugee crisis that has seen over a million people from Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere pass through European borders. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Monday he hopes the EU will not find any excuse against Turkey to not allow the visa-free travel.
“It is obvious that we have been engaged in a sincere effort to take steps on issues under our responsibility by making parliament work as fast as possible,” Kurtulmuş said, according to Hurriyet Daily News. “I think this will be observed by sincere politicians in Europe.”
Several rights groups condemned the agreement, accusing Europe of pushing away its responsibilities toward refugees on Turkey. However, British Member of European Parliament Claude Moraes told the BBC that the deal is likely to face tight scrutiny in the European Parliament.
Many Turkish citizens consider the visa requirement as humiliating with some missing study opportunities or business conferences in the EU over visa issues, according to BBC. And the visa waiver would indicate that the EU is serious about Turkey’s negotiations to join the union, the report added.
Under the deal, Turkey is also expected to receive an extended aid package of 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in exchange for taking back and, in some cases, repatriating refugees.
Germany and France have already proposed an “emergency brake” under which it could stop visa-free travel if a large number of Turkish nationals stay in the EU illegally or if there are too many asylum applications by Turks.