Turkey paves way to lift EU visitors' visas if Brussels reciprocates

Turkey has laid the groundwork to lift visa requirements for all EU citizens as soon as the bloc reciprocates

Turkey and the European Union struck a deal in March aimed at halting migration flows from Turkey into the bloc after 1 million people reached Europe last year, in return for the prospect of visa-free travel for Turkish visitors to the bloc and other concessions.

Ankara could be granted the long-sought benefit by July if it fulfils 72 previously determined benchmarks in time. Fewer than 10 remain to be completed, an EU source said Tuesday on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, the European Commission will give its latest assessment of Turkey's progress. It is expected to propose granting Ankara the right to visa-free travel, pending the completion of all benchmarks and implementation of the migration accord, the source said.

The decision to lift visa requirements, which is controversial within the EU, would then have to be approved by a majority of member states and the European Parliament.

Last week, Germany and France proposed ramping up existing measures under which visa-free travel rights can be suspended if the country in question is not upholding its part of the deal.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Tuesday that Turkey had met "one of the more important benchmarks" for visa-free travel by granting all EU citizens the reciprocal right.

Up until now, the citizens of nine EU countries - including Cyprus, Austria, Ireland, Britain and Spain - had to apply for visas to visit Turkey.

It is unclear how many of Turkey's almost 79 million citizens could benefit from visa-free travel to Europe. Only around 10 per cent are estimated to be in possession of Turkish passports, and there are questions about whether these meet the EU's security norms.

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

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