A delegation from the European Union is expected to visit Ankara this month to discuss visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and convey Brussels’s views on the technical matters regarding remaining criteria.
Talks between Turkey and the EU accelerated after Ankara submitted the necessary paperwork regarding visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area to the EU Commission in early February.
EU Commission officials reviewed Ankara’s document on the remaining seven criteria, from a total of 72 that were determined by Brussels.
Within this framework, the EU Commission is planning to send a delegation in April.
The EU delegation is expected to focus on Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation, the deal with the European Police Service (Europol), and regulations on the protection of personal data.
European law should include Islamophobia: Turkish FM
The Turkish foreign minister on Wednesday urged European countries to include Islamophobia as a crime in their constitution, without waiting for a Holocaust-like situation to unfold.”We should ensure that Islamophobia is included in [European] constitution as a crime clearly,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said during an event at capital Ankara marked to unveil the latest European Islamophobia Report (EIR).”There is no need to relive Auschwitz or wait for Muslims to be burned in gas chambers like Jewish people,” he said, referring to the Nazi concentration camp in Poland and the Holocaust.Çavuşoğlu said that hate speech, which is a crime in Europe, is still used by politicians.He recalled that populist politicians in Europe, especially in Germany, used anti-Turkey discourse and Islamophobia to win elections.The EU’s largest economy has witnessed growing Islamophobia and hatred of migrants in recent years, triggered by propaganda from far-right and populist parties who exploit fears over the refugee crisis and terrorism.The far-right AfD became the third-largest party in Germany’s federal parliament after winning 12.6 percent of the vote in federal elections last year. Not restricted to politiciansÇavuşoğlu said that Islamophobia is not restricted to politicians but also extends to civilians and the media.“There is another problem: the press in Europe. Today, we are unfortunately seeing that the European press is also joining or sinking into the populist flow,” he said.”When we observe the language used by the media, hostility towards migrants and foreigners, and Islamophobia is obvious.”He criticized European politicians for their lack of action against rising incidents of Islamophobic assaults.“Europe does not regard Islamophobia as a hate crime and it is not seen as another form of racism, especially by the politicians,” he said.The Islamic houses of worship across Europe have endured dozens of attacks over the past three months as attackers attempted to arson them with Molotov cocktails or spray-painted terror symbols or racist slurs on the walls. Luckily, the attacks caused no casualties.Germany takes the lead in hate crimes against mosques, as over 30 of them, were targeted in such attacks in the first three months of this year — double the figure in the same period last year.Rising wave of IslamophobiaTen out of 31 attacks were perpetrated by far-right groups while remaining 21 assaults were conducted by PKK/PYD supporters as the group threatened to carry out violent acts against a Turkish counterterrorism operation in Afrin, northwestern Syria.Cavusoglu said that non-existing terminologies such as “Islamism” are also repeated by European politicians and the media which lead to false perceptions of Islam.“There is only one Islam and its meaning is peace,“ he said.According to the European Islamophobia Report 2017, a rising wave of Islamophobia has taken hold in Europe.The report revealed 908 crimes, ranging from verbal and physical attacks to murder attempts, targeting Muslims in Germany, as well as 664 in Poland, 364 in the Netherlands, 256 in Austria, 121 in France, 56 in Denmark, and 36 in Belgium.The report was prepared by the Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA).
Other points of interest, albeit less controversial, concern biometric passports, the readmission agreement, measures in the fight against corruption and are viewed as easily negotiable.
The European Parliament, which has voted in favor of several resolutions criticizing Turkey on various issues, going as far as calling for a suspension of EU accession talks in July 2017, will be instrumental for the process to come to a successful conclusion.
Turkey expects the EU voting on visa-free travel to be done prior to parliament elections that are to be held in 2019.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following the Varna Summit held in March in Bulgaria with EU leaders, said: “If the EU takes a step immediately regarding the matter, we will be relieved. This should not be political matter, it should not take a position that may shackle Turkish citizens’ trust in the EU.”