New Stage in thawing EU-Turkey Relations

Written by | Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Relations between the European Union and Turkey which started to warm up lately made a new step on Monday with the signing of an agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants and the launch of the EU-Turkey visa liberalisation dialogue.
The main objective of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement is to establish, on the basis of reciprocity, procedures for the rapid and orderly readmission, by each side, of the persons having entered or are residing on the territory of the other side in an irregular manner, said the European Commission in a release.
The agreement includes provisions related both to the readmission of the nationals of the EU Member States and Turkey, and to the readmission of any other persons (including the third country nationals and the stateless persons) that entered into, or stayed on, the territory of either sides directly arriving from the territory of the other side.
The agreement, signed in Ankara by Turkish home affairs minister Muammer Güler and EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström, will enter into force after ratification by the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the Turkish Grand National Assembly.
The Turkish Islamic-conservative government had signed the readmission agreement as early as 2012 but had suspended its formal endorsement awaiting the EU commitment to extend free movement on its territory to Turkish citizens.
Brussels has been waiting with special interest the signing of the readmission agreement with Ankara, as Turkey is one of the main corridors used by illegal migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who wish to reach Europe.
Turkey is also hosting more than 600,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war waged in their country since 2011.
As to the EU-Turkey visa liberalisation dialogue, it is meant to make progress towards the elimination of the visa obligation currently imposed on the Turkish citizens travelling to the Schengen area for short term visits.
The dialogue will essentially consist of screening Turkey’s compliance with a document, elaborated by the Commission for Home Affairs, called “Roadmap towards the visa-free regime with Turkey”.
Among the requirements included in the Roadmap many refer, inter alia, to the need to implement in a full and effective manner the readmission agreement, to manage the borders and the visa policy in such a manner as to effectively prevent irregular migration, to have secure travel documents, to establish migration and asylum systems in line with international standards.
The Roadmap also stresses the need for Turkey to have functioning structures for combating organised crime with focus on migrants’ smuggling and trafficking in human beings, to have in place and implement adequate forms of police and judicial cooperation with the EU Member States and the international community, and to respect the fundamental rights of the citizens and the foreigners with a specific attention to persons belonging to minorities and vulnerable categories.
Within the framework of the support provided through the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), the Commission will support the legal reforms and the development of administrative capacities which will be deemed useful to enable the Turkish authorities to better address the requirements set out in the Roadmap, the EC said.
If all requirements of the Roadmap are met, the EU will grant Turkish Nationals, within a three and a half year deadline, free entry in EU member states.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who attended the signing ceremony welcomed the move and ensured that “Turkey will fulfil all its commitments under the readmission agreement.”
He however pleaded for shortening the deadline to lift the visa requirements for Turkish citizens set for 2017, deeming it “way too long.”
Turkey is associated with Europe since 1963, is member of the customs union since 1995, and is candidate to the EU since 1999.

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