Turkey, EU likely to find middle ground to move forward with visa liberalization
A visa-free regime for Turkish nationals traveling to the Schengen area was one of the key conditions in the Turkey-EU refugee deal signed last March. As the European Union waits for Turkey's final proposal and a road map towards fulfilling the remaining visa liberalization benchmarks, diplomatic sources from both sides were optimistic about finding middle ground over a number of critical issues, including the definition of terrorism and the independence of Turkey's Data Protection Board.
As Daily Sabah writes in an article "Turkey, EU likely to find middle ground to move forward with visa liberalization", the EU set a total of 72 benchmarks for visa liberalization, with Turkey fulfilling 65 of those up to now. After months of hiatus, the country drafted its final proposal at a meeting between the foreign, interior, justice, and EU ministers on Nov. 29.
"There are seven remaining benchmarks and five of them can easily be met," the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos told a group of Turkish journalists in Brussels on Dec. 6.
"I know that the Turkish side is sensitive about the definition of terrorism issue. But EU does not want to weaken Turkey's capacity to fight terrorism," Dimitris Avramopoulos said. The EU commissioner indicated that narrowing down the definition was a sensitive issue for Turkey as it has been battling several terrorist organizations, like the PKK, Daesh, and Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which perpetrated last year's failed coup attempt.
However, highly placed Turkish sources told Daily Sabah that the EU and Turkey were looking to find a middle ground on this issue. Accordingly, articles about the definition of terrorism in Turkish anti-terror law will be updated in line with the relevant articles in the Turkish Penal code. The EU has apparently assumed a more understanding position concerning Turkey's sensitiveness towards the issue while it also expected the country to reach EU and Council of Europe (COE) standards.
Responding to a question on what would be a satisfactory solution to the definition of terrorism issue Avramopoulos said, a satisfactory solution for Turkey should also satisfy the EU. "It's not an easy thing to deal with but mutual understanding on security issues is essential here. In order to reach the benchmarks, Turkey needs to add some guarantee to its legislation so as to bring its standards closer to that of the EU and the COE. Turkey has to align its definition of terrorism with the EU and the COE standards," he added.
Like the Turkish side, the EU Commissioner, in charge of the visa liberation process, was also optimistic about the solution between the two sides. "We are on the good path and Turkey is really willing to reach the final steps of this visa process. The political will is there and so is the understanding to bring Turkey closer to European standards," Avramopoulos concluded.
Turkey's proposal will be submitted to the EU after the completion of the approval process and it's likely that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu will submit it to Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the EU Commission, during their meeting in Brussels on Dec. 12.