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EC opens way for decision by June on visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey
The European Commission has yesterday proposed to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union to lift the visa requirements for the citizens of Turkey, under the understanding that the Turkish authorities will fulfil, as a matter of urgency and as they committed to do so on 18 March 2016, the outstanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalisation Roadmap. The proposal is presented together with a Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of the Roadmap.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Turkey has made impressive progress, particularly in recent weeks, on meeting the benchmarks of its visa liberalisation roadmap. There is still work to be done as a matter of urgency but if Turkey sustains the progress made, they can meet the remaining benchmarks. This is why we are putting a proposal on the table which opens the way for the European Parliament and the Member States to decide to lift visa requirements, once the benchmarks have been met."
Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "The Turkish authorities have made remarkable progress since the 18 March EU-Turkey Summit and we trust Turkey is committed to delivering on all fronts as soon as possible. On the understanding that all benchmarks will be met as a matter of urgency, the Commission has decided to put forward a proposal to transfer Turkey to the list of visa-free countries. Of course, the Commission will continue to monitor the continuous fulfilling of these criteria."
Visa liberalisation for Turkey is a key component of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016 which stated that the fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all benchmarks have been met. In order to meet a June deadline for adoption by the co-legislators, a Commission proposal to put Turkey on the visa-free list has to be tabled at the beginning of May to allow an eight-week period to elapse between a draft being made available to national Parliaments and its adoption.
The Progress Report adopted yesterday assesses progress made to date by Turkey in implementing the benchmarks, identifies outstanding benchmarks and sets out the concrete measures that Turkey needs to meet in order to complete the remaining requirements, in areas such as the fight against corruption, data protection, judicial cooperation with all Member States, enhanced cooperation with EUROPOL and revision of the legislation and practices on terrorism.
In a number of exceptional cases, the acceleration of the Roadmap's implementation has made completion of some benchmarks, such as a full roll-out of biometric passports and a review of the implementation of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement (fully applicable only as of 1 June), impossible to date. In others, the Commission acknowledges the good progress made by the Turkish authorities so far, and encourages them to urgently step up these efforts to meet all requirements in order to obtain visa liberalisation by the end of June.
Visa-free travel will apply to all EU Member States except for Ireland and the UK, and to the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The exemption concerns only short stays of up to 90 days (in any 180-day period) for business, tourist or family purposes, among others. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU. Other entry conditions for accessing the Schengen area will continue to apply, including the need to be able to prove their purpose of travel and sufficient subsidence means.
As for all countries listed in Annex II of the Visa Regulation and whose citizens can travel visa-free to Europe, the safeguard clause introduced in the beginning of 2014 will apply to visa-free travel for citizens of Turkey. Taking into account recent discussions with Member States on the EU's visa policy as a whole, the Commission has yesterday proposed to strengthen this suspension mechanism to make it easier for Member States to notify circumstances leading to a possible suspension and enabling the Commission to trigger the mechanism on its own initiative.
The European Union launched the Visa Liberalisation Dialogue with Turkey on 16 December 2013, in parallel with the signature of the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement. The Visa Liberalisation Dialogue is based on the Roadmap towards a visa free regime with Turkey, a document setting out the requirements that Turkey needs to meet in order to enable the Commission to propose to the European Parliament and the Council an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 which would allow Turkish citizens to travel without a visa for short stays of 90 days within any 180-day period for business, touristic or family purposes, in the Schengen area.
The 72 requirements listed in the Roadmap are organised in five thematic groups: document security; migration management; public order and security; fundamental rights and readmission of irregular migrants.
On 20 October 2014, the Commission adopted its First Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap. The First Report assessed the fulfilment of each requirement and issued recommendations for making further progress in all of them.
At the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015, activating the EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan, the EU welcomed the commitment by Turkey to accelerate the fulfilment of the Visa Roadmap benchmarks vis-à-vis all participating Member States. Turkey committed to accelerating the fulfilment of the Roadmap, including by bringing forward the application of all the provisions of the EU-Turkey Readmission agreement.
On 4 March 2016, the Commission adopted its Second Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap. The Report welcomed the new level of engagement and determination demonstrated by the Turkish authorities.
At the EU-Turkey Summit of 18 March, Turkey committed to accelerating the fulfilment of the Roadmap even further. In the Joint Statement after this meeting, the 28 EU Heads of State or Government committed to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016, provided that all 72 benchmarks of the Roadmap are fulfilled.
For More Information
Commission Proposal for a Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (revision of the suspension mechanism)
EU-Turkey Action Plan of 15 October, activated on 29 November
- Natasha BERTAUD (+32 2 296 74 56)
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