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Turkey-EU talks stall over visa-free travel

May 14, 2016 at 11:48 am

Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir said on Friday that the European Commission holds the key to solving the visa liberalisation crisis. He noted that the talks regarding this issue have reached an impasse, Anadolu has reported.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament halted the visa liberalisation process for Turkish citizens across the Schengen zone, citing Turkey’s failure to fulfil the necessary criteria. Speaking to reporters in Brussels following a meeting with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn, Bozkir said: “This is really unacceptable for us. The [European] parliament has no legal right to halt the process.”

Saying that the matter should have been referred to the Commission, Bozkir said it was up to the EC to remove the deadlock, and this was actually possible if it declared that Turkey had fulfilled five key criteria.

“When we get back to Turkey, we will discuss what can be done regarding these five expectations, in particular,” he said. “We would like to continue the process without causing any tension. However, we need the EU to really understand how critical the position we are in actually is.”

Last week, the European Commission proposed visa-free Schengen zone travel for Turkish citizens as part of a deal which would see Turkey stem the refugee flow to Europe in exchange for speeding up the country’s EU membership. However, among five remaining benchmarks for Turkey to address in order to receive visa-free travel, the EU has called for changes to Ankara’s legislation on terrorism, a demand criticised and rejected by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The remaining benchmarks concern passing anti-corruption measures, aligning current legislation on data protection with EU standards, cooperating with Europe’s police agency Europol and judicial cooperation with all EU member states.