The EU will send a technical team to Turkey in April to convey its assessment on the Turkish proposals for granting a visa exemption for Turkish nationals, a senior government official has said.
“They will send a technical team to Turkey this month and give us their assessment on the position paper we have presented them,” Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik told members of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee at a meeting on April 4.
Turkey had introduced a position paper to the European Commission outlining how the Turkish government will fulfill the remaining seven out of 72 criteria required for granting a visa waiver for Turks to travel to the Schengen area.
The technical team to be deployed to Ankara will officially discuss the content of the Turkish proposals, which include an amendment on the anti-terror law and the data protection law. Visa liberalization in return of Turkey’s implementation of the Readmission Agreement was part of a massive migrant agreement Turkey and the EU negotiated in March 2016.
The visa liberalization process had to delay because of the worsened relationship between Ankara and Brussels after the failed coup in July 2016. The accession process has been at a halt while ties between Turkey and prominent EU countries have suffered.
A summit between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and senior EU officials in Varna late in March failed to provide a breakthrough on issues concerning visa liberalization, upgrading the Customs Union and accelerating Turkey’s accession process. Countries like Germany, Austria and Netherlands have sharpened their position against the Turkish accession, with the new government in Vienna openly calling to end accession talks.
“It has turned from oppositional to hostile,” said Çelik, in regards to Austria’s stance against Turkey.
The EU minister slammed recent remarks from Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who called on the EU to end accession negations with Turkey, suggesting Kurz has shown an approach “more racist than racists.”
“A sentence like ‘let’s end Turkey-EU relations, but let’s improve our relations in other areas’ is the biggest lie spoken in Europe at the moment,” he said.
“The main issue with regard to Turkey is the perspective of full membership. I want to state here once again that we will never accept an approach other than full membership,” Çelik added.
Ties between Austria and Turkey also soured in late 2016 amid Austrian restrictions on Turkish government figures who wanted to campaign in the country ahead of a key referendum shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system.
Minister Çelik goes to Paris
In the meantime, the Turkish EU minister will travel to Paris on April 4 for talks with French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, in a first in-person meeting since ties had been strained over French President Emmanuel Macron’s reception of representatives of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the Elysée Palace.
Çelik will meet both Le Drian and France’s EU Minister Nathalie Loiseau in Paris, his office said in a written statement on April 4. The meeting is expected to address recent developments in Turkey-EU relations, bilateral ties, as well as regional developments.
Turkey blasted Macron’s meeting with the YPG delegation at the French presidency last week, as well as his offer to mediate between Ankara and the Syrian Kurdish group. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization due to its links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey, along with elements of the Free Syrian Army, recently completed a military operation into the northern Syrian province of Afrin in a bid to eliminate the YPG. Ankara has also vowed that its offensive will continue along the Turkish-Syrian border against YPG targets east of the Euphrates River.