EU to tie visa-free travel for Turkey to migration deal

The European Union's executive is set to propose that visa-free travel benefits for Turkish citizens be conditional on the implementation of a migration-curbing deal that was struck with Ankara in March, according to a draft seen by dpa on Sunday.

The EU last month reached an agreement with Ankara under which migrants reaching Greece from Turkey can be sent back, in return for a range of concessions.

Among other things, Brussels has offered the prospect of lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting the bloc starting in July, if Ankara meets predefined benchmarks.

But the move is controversial among EU member states. There are concerns that it could encourage people to illegally resettle in the EU or pave the way for thousands of Turkish Kurds to seek asylum in the bloc. There are also worries it could create a security risk by opening the door to radicalized Islamists.

Germany and France on Thursday had floated the idea of introducing a "snap-back" mechanism suspending EU visa-free travel benefits for any country in case of abuses of the system or migration surges.

The European Commission will on Wednesday report on Turkey's progress in fulfilling the EU's 72 conditions for visa liberalization, and it is expected to recommend the move if it finds that all have been met.

The commission draft prepared for Wednesday says that the visa exemption will be "dependent upon the continued implementation of the requirements of ... the EU-Turkey statement of March 18, 2016." It also mentions the possibility of suspending the benefit if needed.

Visa liberalization can "be taken back at any time, if the conditions are not met," a commission source said on condition of anonymity.

Turkey has repeatedly stressed that its cooperation in stemming migration flows hinges on the lifting of visa requirements for short-term visits to the EU, insisting that there can be no restrictions.

The country, which is also a candidate for EU membership, says it has already implemented most measures and will complete the outstanding ones by Wednesday.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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