Visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion for Turkey: EU cri­te­ria must be met, say MEPs

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The EU should make sure that all its re­quire­ments are met be­fore grant­ing Turkey visa-free ac­cess to the Schen­gen area, Civil Lib­er­ties Com­mit­tee MEPs stressed in a de­bate with the EU Com­mis­sion on Mon­day. Most MEPs crit­i­cised the Com­mis­sion for propos­ing a visa waiver for Turk­ish na­tion­als even though the coun­try has not yet ful­filled all the cri­te­ria. Turkey should not be dis­crim­i­nated, but nei­ther should it re­ceive pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, they agreed.

Speak­ers pointed to the state­ments by Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan that Ankara will not change its an­titer­ror­ist leg­is­la­tion – one of the pend­ing re­quire­ments - and voiced wor­ries about the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Ah­met Davu­to­glu, as well as threats to press free­dom and hu­man rights. Cypriot MEPs also re­it­er­ated that Turkey does not recog­nise their coun­try.

On Mon­day evening, MEPs were also pre­sented with the opinion of the Par­lia­ment´s legal ser­vice on the legal as­pects of the EU-Turkey deal on mi­gra­tion. Since the agree­ment was con­cluded on March 18, MEPs have voiced con­cerns about its com­pat­i­bil­ity with EU and in­ter­na­tional law and have com­plained about the lack of an op­por­tu­nity to sub­ject it to demo­cratic scru­tiny.

The legal ex­perts said that the March state­ment merely re­flects a po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment by the two par­ties and that it can in no way be con­sid­ered an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment, since it is not legally bind­ing. They un­der­lined that all legal changes stem­ming from this deal will have to fol­low the usual pro­ce­dures, which in some cases in­volve Par­lia­ment, such as visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion or dis­burs­ing funds for as­sist­ing refugees in Turkey.

Many MEPs protested over what they saw as a “shady” deal with se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions, which was reached at the high­est EU level but left Par­lia­ment aside.

As part of the EU-Turkey deal reached on March 18 to man­age mi­gra­tion and refugee flows bet­ter, EU lead­ers of­fered visa lib­er­al­i­sa­tion for Turk­ish na­tion­als by June 2016, provided that all EU bench­marks are met.

In its third progress re­port, pre­sented on May 4, the Com­mis­sion ac­knowl­edged that Ankara had yet to com­ply with five re­quire­ments, out of 72, re­gard­ing data pro­tec­tion and an­titer­ror­ist laws, among other is­sues. Also, it pre­sented a pro­posal to lift the visa re­quire­ments “un­der the un­der­stand­ing that the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties will ful­fil, as a mat­ter of ur­gency and as they com­mit­ted to do so on 18 March 2016, the out­stand­ing bench­marks”.

Mean­while, a Ger­man tabloid re­ported on Mon­day that the EU was con­sid­er­ing giv­ing the EUR 6 bln it promised to Turkey to Greece in­stead, in case the deal agreed with Ankara to stem the refugee flows col­lapses.

Bild re­ported that sev­eral Aegean is­lands are be­ing turned into cen­tral reg­is­tra­tion sites for stranded refugees, and that ships will no longer take refugees to the Greek main­land in or­der to stop the un­con­trolled flow of mi­grants into the EU.

In other words, asy­lum seek­ers will be kept on the is­lands; those re­fused asy­lum would then be de­ported di­rectly to their home coun­tries.

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