Turkey Blackmails Europe on Visa-Free Travel
by Soeren Kern
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in 2016.
From the article:
To qualify for the visa waiver, Turkey has until April 30 to meet 72 conditions. These include: bringing the security features of Turkish passports up to EU standards; sharing information on forged and fraudulent documents used to travel to the EU and granting work permits to non-Syrian migrants in Turkey.
The European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, said it would issue a report on May 4 on whether Turkey adequately has met all of the conditions to qualify for visa liberalization.
During a hearing at the European Parliament on April 21, Marta Cygan, a director in the Commission's migration and home affairs unit, revealed that to date Ankara has satisfied only 35 of the 72 conditions. This implies that Turkey is unlikely to meet the other 37 conditions by the April 30 deadline, a window of fewer than ten days.
According to Turkish officials, however, Turkey is fulfilling all of its obligations under the EU deal and the onus rests on the European Union to approve visa liberalization — or else.
Addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 19, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey has now reduced the flow of migrants to Greece to an average of 60 a day, compared to several thousand a day at the height of the migrant crisis in late 2015. Davutoglu went on to say that this proves that Turkey has fulfilled its end of the deal and that Ankara will no longer honor the EU-Turkey deal if the bloc fails to deliver visa-free travel by June 30.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has insisted that Turkey must meet all 72 conditions for visa-free travel and that the EU will not water down its criteria. But European officials — under intense pressure to keep the migrant deal with Turkey alive — will be tempted to cede to Turkish demands.
EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos on April 20 conceded that for the EU it is not a question of the number of conditions, but rather "how quickly the process is going on." He added: "I believe that at the end, if we continue working like this, most of the benchmarks will be met."
European officials alone are to blame for allowing themselves to be blackmailed in this way. In their haste to stanch the rush of migrants to Europe, they effectively allowed Turkey to conflate the two very separate issues of a) uncontrolled migration into Europe and b) an end to visa restrictions for Turkish nationals.
The original criteria for the visa waiver were established in December 2013 — more than two years before the EU-Turkey deal — by means of the so-called Visa Liberalization Dialogue and the accompanying Readmission Agreement. In it, Turkey agrees to take back third-country nationals who, after having transiting through Turkey, have entered the EU illegally.