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Turkey Moves Closer to Visa-free EU Travel

turkey_visaTurkey’s progress towards meeting the conditions for Turkish citizens to travel in the Schengen area without a visa was noted in a report released on Friday by the European Commission. The report comes ahead of an emergency EU summit in Brussels between the EU and Turkey on Monday aimed at stemming the flow of refugees.

In its “Second Report on progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalisation roadmap”, the European Commission noted that after the first report in October 2014 and since the EU-Turkey Summit of 29 November 2015, Turkish authorities have been intensifying their efforts concerning the fulfillment of conditions for visa liberalization.

Among other things, the report underlined that positive developments have been noticed in regards to the readmission of irregular migrants to Turkey. “Since the November Summit, Turkey has intensified its contact with Greek authorities in view of improving the implementation of the existing bilateral protocol. A number of technical meetings took place that resulted in Turkey accelerating the assessment of all pending 864 readmission applications submitted by Greece in 2016.”

As pointed out in the report, the most important of the requirements which remain to be fulfilled is related to Turkey’s need to “Carry out adequate border checks and border surveillance […] in such a manner that it will cause a significant and sustained reduction of the number of persons managing to illegally cross the Turkish borders either for entering or for exiting Turkey”.

In 2015 the number of migrants and refugees that reached the EU at the land and sea borders by departing irregularly from the Turkish territory amounted to 888,457 migrants. This is around 17 times the number which had been registered in the course of 2014. The problem unfortunately continues and in January 2016, 68,650 were registered.

Moreover, according to the report, Turkey still must take concrete steps to fulfill all conditions for visa liberalization. Among other things, Turkey should start issuing passports with a contactless chip which includes not only the facial image of the holder, but also the holder’s fingerprints.

Furthermore, Turkey must adopt legislation on the protection of personal data in line with the EU and the Council of Europe standards and conclude an operational cooperation agreement with Europol and a cooperation agreement with Eurojust as soon as an adequate legislative framework on personal data protection is in force.

Turkey is also invited to revise Turkish legislation on terrorism with the aim of aligning it with the EU acquis, the  Council of Europe standards and with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence on terrorism.

The Commission concluded that it will continue to assist Turkey in the implementation of its visa liberalisation roadmap and will actively monitor the developments occurring in this context, with a view to presenting a new progress report in autumn 2016.

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