The European Commission has appealed to the European Parliament as well as Council of the European Union to lift the visa requirements for the citizens of Turkey. According to reports, this proposition is under the understanding that the Turkish authorities will fulfil, as a matter of urgency the outstanding benchmarks of its Visa Liberalization Roadmap. There are however indications that the proposal was presented alongside a report on the progress by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of the road map.
According to the First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans Turkey has made impressive progress, especially in recent weeks, on meeting the benchmarks of its visa liberalization roadmap. He further opined that even though there is still work to be done as a matter of urgency, Turkey can still meet the remaining benchmark if it sustains the progress made.
It is nevertheless worth mentioning that visa liberalization for Turkish citizens is a major component of the EU-Turkey Statement of 18 March 2016. The statement however stated that the fulfillment of the visa liberalization roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by June 2016, as long as all the benchmarks were met.
Reports have it that a Commission proposal to put Turkey on the visa free list was to be tabled in May in a bid to meet a June deadline for adoption by the co-legislators. However, the Progress Report adopted today aims at evaluating the progress that has been made till date by Turkey in implementing the benchmarks. It equally identifies outstanding benchmarks thereby setting out the concrete measures that Turkey needs to meet in a bid to complete the remaining requirements. These measures include the fight against corruption, data protection, judicial cooperation with all Member States, enhanced cooperation with EUROPOL as well as a revision of the legislation and practices on terrorism.
The visa free travel will however apply to all EU Member States except for Ireland, the UK, as well as the four Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). According to reports, the exemptions are going to concern only short stays of up to 90 days (in any 180-day period) for business, tourist, and family purposes. Of course, the visa exemption excludes the right to work in the EU. Nonetheless, other entry conditions including the need to prove the purpose of travel as well as sufficient subsidence means will continue to apply.
The visa liberalization dialogue with Turkey was, however launched by the European Union on December 16, 2013, in parallel with the signature of the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement. The Visa Liberalization Dialogue is therefore based on the roadmap towards a visa free regime with Turkey. The document therefore contains the requirements that Turkey needs to meet to enable the Commission to propose to the European Parliament and the Council an amendment to Regulation (EC) No 539/2001 which would allow Turkish citizens to travel without a visa for short stays of 90 days within any 180-day period for either business, touristic or family purposes, in the Schengen area.
The roadmap however has 72 requirements which are further organized into five thematic groups that include document security; migration management; public order and security; fundamental rights as well as readmission of irregular migrants.
The commission nevertheless adopted its first report on progress in fulfilling the requirements of its visa liberalization roadmap on October 20, 2014. This first report however assessed the fulfillment of each requirement and issued recommendations for making further progress in all of them. Meanwhile, the second report was adopted on March 4, 2016. This second report nevertheless welcomed the new level of engagement as well as determination demonstrated by the Turkish authorities.