The European Commission Wednesday recommended that the EU grant visa-free travel to Turks in exchange for assurances that Ankara would meet certain criteria, including improved security measures and civil rights protections, by the end of June.
The proposal, which faces a difficult road to approval in the European Parliament, is the linchpin of the EU’s deal with Turkey on controlling the flow of migrants into Europe from the Middle East. In making the recommendation, the Commission called the decision “a matter of urgency” as a key component of the EU’s migration strategy.
“Over the last weeks, Turkey has made impressive progress,” said European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans. “There is still work to be done as a matter of urgency.”
But the recommendation came with a warning from the Commission that Turkey could not backslide on its commitment to meeting the criteria the EU requires of all countries given visa-free travel status. These included five remaining benchmarks that Timmermans called “challenging and important,” on preventing corruption, cooperation with EU law enforcement authorities, data proection, revising legislation on terrorism.
“There is no free ride here,” Timmermans said, insisting that Turkey meet the remaining requirements by the end of June, when the proposal to lift the visa restrictions will be considered by the European Parliament and by EU countries.
Click Here: NRL Telstra Premiership
Turkey has come under increasing criticism for actions and statements by its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cracking down on freedom of speech and expression in the country.
Turkey’s parliament has also had trouble passing constitutional reform legislation required to meet the EU’s criteria. In recent days, parliamentary debates in Ankara have erupted into fist-fights, delaying final action on several measures.