EU envoy: Visa liberalization process could take two more years


The visa liberalization process for Turkish nationals could take at least one or two more years, the head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey, Christian Berger, said.

Commenting on the process at an event in Eskişehir province on Monday Berger said that the issue of granting visa-free travel to Turkish citizens is “a legally complex issue.”

Berger recounted past visa liberalization processes with other countries in which he was involved and said that it could take a couple more years until it is finalized.

He said that a political process will follow the technical details and that both the European Commission and European Parliament must first give the green light for visa liberalization.

Recently, German media contended that Ankara’s proposal to the European Union concerning its fulfilment of the remaining benchmarks out of 72 in total was considered to be positive.

In an article in the German daily Die Welt, which attributed the remarks to a high-ranking EU official, the European Commission said in an internal evaluation of Ankara’s proposals regarding the visa liberalization process that the new proposals represent “substantial” progress.

The EU delegation head did not elaborate on the analysis of the commission, but he said that his colleagues in Brussels are looking into Ankara’s proposal.

The Die Welt piece reported that Brussels is calling for even more “proportionality” in Turkey’s counterterrorism legislation, as well as further efforts on data protection and the cooperation agreement with Europol.

Berger touched on the EU’s request from Ankara to revise its anti-terrorism laws as well. Explaining that Brussels does not expect Ankara to soften its laws on terrorism to hinder the fight against terrorist groups, Berger said that Turkey must abide by some laws in practice.

“All these issues will be discussed in Varna on March 26,” Berger added, referring to the EU leaders’ summit in Varna, Bulgaria, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is also attend.

The EU gave ANkara a list of 72 criteria to fulfill for visa-free travel for Turkish nationals after the two sides signed an agreement in March 2016. The 28 EU member states and European Parliament must also approve the visa scheme.

Aside from visa liberalization, the EU pledged to provide financial aid for refugees in Turkey and to accelerate EU membership talks. Turkey has completed 69 of the listed criteria, but needs to change its terrorism laws.

The visa liberalization process has been put on hold for a long time after relations between Ankara and the EU deteriorated to a great extent.

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