Turkey seems to be playing its cards right calling on the EU to lift restrictions on its nationals for Schengen zone visa-free travel by June in exchange for the full implementation of a migration deal with the EU to curtail the flow of refugees to Greece.
“I maintain my belief that, god willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then of course no-one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday in Ankara.
Mr Davutoglu was referring to the March 18 agreement with EU leaders last month which is aimed at stemming the flow of migrants entering the EU via Greece by deporting people back to Turkey. Under the deal, for every one person deported from Greece, an EU member would voluntarily resettle a Syrian refugee from Turkey starting April 4.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has seemingly not given in to the game, however, saying yesterday that Turkey must meet all the necessary criteria for visa-free travel in Europe to take effect.
“Turkey must fulfill all remaining conditions so that the Commission can adopt its proposal in the coming months,” Juncker said. “The criteria will not be watered down.”
In the meantime, the European Union said today, that Turkey was successfully implementing the accord and producing results with 325 irregular migrants having been sent back to Turkey from Greece. In return, 103 Syrian refugees in Turkey have been relocated in the EU.
Turkey has repeatedly requested that new negotiation chapters open with its EU accession hinging on 72 requirements before the short-stay visa restrictions are lifted for passport-free travel in the Schengen zone.