New reforms underway to meet necessary criteria for EU visa liberalization

European Union (R) and Turkish flags fly at the business and financial district of Levent in Istanbul, Turkey September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal


Turkey has been preparing to make the necessary reforms to meet the criteria imposed by the European Union to provide visa liberalization for its citizens. Up to now, Turkey has fulfilled 66 out of the 72 necessary criteria for enabling Turkish citizens to have visa-free access to the EU. Following the Parliament opening on Oct. 1, Ankara will launch a new initiative to take necessary measures for fulfilling the remaining six criteria. During the meeting of the Reform Action Group chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 9, Erdoğan instructed the working group that the necessary steps to meet the remaining six criteria for visa liberalization be taken immediately.

Technocrats working on the issue have made a significant progress to be ready for fresh negotiations with the EU on the remaining criteria.

Remaining six criteria include the anti-terror regulation, the Europol (European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation), the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), cooperation in the extradition of criminals, protection of personal data and the readmission agreement.

Regarding the anti-terror regulation, it is expected that both sides will show some flexibility to reach a common ground. Turkey expects that the EU should understand that Turkey is not like Luxembourg in terms of its surrounding region. Fighting against three terrorist groups – namely Daesh, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), the PKK – at the same time, Turkey will explain its unique reasons and situation in detail.

Cooperating with Europol is another criterion for Turkey to meet. Particularly, the cooperation in the extradition of prominent criminals is the most important element of this criterion. Ankara thinks that it is ready for technical cooperation on this issue.

The regulations in accordance with GRECO are one of the biggest challenges for Turkey according to Western sources. To meet this criterion, Turkey must establish an institution to fight against corruption. This institution must have an action plan and be followed. Also, there are other regulations about the financing of political parties and ethical rules for members of Parliament.

Regarding cooperation in the extradition of criminals, the official recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration is a major problem for Turkey. However, Turkey plans to overcome this barrier with a method called “The Kosovo Formula.” Accordingly, if Turkey and the Greek Cypriot administration have to cooperate in the extradition of a criminal, this can be conducted via another EU country. It is expected that other EU members will support this solution.

Regarding the protection of personal data, Turkey is technically ready to be adapted to EU norms.

Finally, the readmission agreement has not been functioning for third countries. Turkey is not fully applying the readmission agreement because the EU did not deliver on its commitments about visa liberalization. If Turkey can get the visa liberalization, it will apply the agreement for third countries.

Turkey and the EU signed an agreement on March 18, 2016, to stem the influx of refugees to Europe. Turkey has been the main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

With the agreement, irregular arrivals decreased over 90%, saving the lives of many of those who would have attempted a treacherous journey by sea. As part of the deal, the EU promised to accelerate Turkey’s EU talks and visa liberalization. The EU gave Turkey a list of 72 criteria to fulfill for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals after the two sides signed the agreement. Signing a partnership agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963, Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005. But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to objections of the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus as well as opposition from Germany and France.



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