Ciğdem Nas, Associate Professor at Yildiz Technical University, Istanbul, and Secretary General of the Economic Development Foundation, hold a seminar at Izmir University of Economics, titled ‘EU Turkey dialogue on visa free travel for Turkish citizens: Progress and Problems’. In her speech Nas argued that the abolition of the visa duty would not imply new security threats or a significant increase in irregular migration for the Schengen states.
The seminar was organized in the framework of Alexander Bürgin’s Jean Monnet Chair Project ‘Achievements and Challenges of EU Governance’. Around 70 Bachelor- and Master-students as well as faculty of the Political Science and International Relations Department attended the EU-funded event.
In her speech Nas argued that the abolition of the visa duty would not imply new security threats or a significant increase in irregular migration for the Schengen states. ‘Since the criteria for visa liberalization embody cooperation between Turkish and EU law enforcement agencies such as Europol and Eurojust, it will intensify judicial cooperation between the parties making the fight against crime more effective’, so Nas. Furthermore, she said that ‘visa liberalization is not expected to increase the migratory pressure from Turkish citizens due to increased job opportunities in the country and higher living standards’. Finally she argued that the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), proposed by the European Commission on 16 November, ‘will make it possible for officials to track down all travelers to the Schengen area and prevent the entry of those who are deemed as a threat in terms of security’.
For the visa waiver Turkey has to fulfill approximately 70 conditions, including a functioning readmission agreement and reforms in areas of document security, border management, asylum, human rights and cooperation with EU member states and EU agencies. While Turkey’s progress in fulfilling the benchmarks has been acknowledged by the Commission, the European Parliament has stressed that the visa obligation can only be lifted if all the benchmarks have been fulfilled, in particular, the requirement to change anti-terror laws, which are considered by the European Parliament as being also used to constrain the freedom of expression. The visa-waiver has to be approved by a qualified majority in the Council and a simple majority in the EP. The Turkish President countered that antiterror legislation will not be changed and threatened to withdraw from the commitment to readmit irregular immigrants from the EU, should the visa-waiver not be realized in the near future.
Main obstacles for a visa waiver have been summarized by Çiğdem Nas at the Jean Monnet Seminar on 5 December 2016 as follows:
- The remaining criteria which Turkey has yet to fulfill in the Roadmap for visa liberalization. These are: revision of the anti-terror legislation, revision of the data protection law, revising anti-corruption strategy in line with GRECO recommendation, operational agreement with Europol, cooperation with the EU in criminal justice matters plus the implementation of the Turkey-EU readmission agreement and transition to EU-compatible biometric passports. Especially the first of these criteria proved to be quite controversial since the EU requires Turkey to narrow down the definition of terrorism so that it will not effects acts which may be seen as limited to freedom of expression while Turkey protests that it cannot revise its related legislation in an environment of active fight against terrorism. Talks among the Turkish and EU officials are still ongoing on how a working formula may be devised in this respect.
- Even if Turkey fulfills the remaining criteria for visa liberalization, the ensuing ratification process by the Council of the EU and the EP will prove to be difficult. The EP adopted a critical stance against developments in Turkey under the state of emergency and even recommended the temporary suspension of negotiations. The EP’s approval could only be possible based on the termination of the state of emergency in Turkey and an improvement in human rights and freedoms. As for the Council, its approval would also include the above-mentioned points and in addition the establishment of a mechanism for the suspension of visa liberalization under conditions of security threats, or upsurge in migrant flows. Such a mechanism would be a general measure to be adopted not only against Turkey but citizens of all other non-EU countries.
An article of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Alexander Bürgin in Euractiv (16 March 2016) regarding the issue can be found here.