Turkey will fulfill all 72 criteria required to ensure the European Union grants its citizens visa-free travel by a May 4 deadline, Turkish EU Minister and Chief EU Negotiator Volkan Bozkır said April 28.
In an EU-Turkey deal reached in mid-March to curb the migrant flow into the bloc, the EU pledged to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel from July onwards provided Turkey meets the 72 necessary criteria. The pledge was made after Turkey agreed to take all migrants back that reach Greece from March 20 onwards, in exchange for the EU taking one Syrian refugee for every migrant Turkey takes back.
Bozkır said that if a draft bill to establish a supervisory commission to oversee law enforcement officers’ compliance with the law had been adopted on the same day, then Turkey would have already completed its requirements.
The April 27 parliamentary session could discuss the law enforcement commission draft fully due to the “prevention” from the opposition parties, Bozkır said, adding that three articles of the law had been approved while a little more than 10 articles were expected to be finalized on March 2.
“God willing, the 10-something article of the law enforcement commission draft will be adopted on Monday [May 2], but we can even say that [the remaining articles] have been already adopted,” said Bozkır. “And then we will have accomplished the 72 criteria.”
The European Commission is expected to present its advisory report on May 4, where it will define whether or not the EU should grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens. This report will later be evaluated by the European Council. The measure has to be approved by a qualified majority of EU member states at the council and a majority in the European Parliament to take effect.
Asked whether a surprise would occur in the process, Bozkır said they did not expect such a thing as both of the sides new with what kind of a picture they were facing and what was being implemented.
“I believe that this process will be finalized in a positive way before the end of June and the decision for visa-free travel for citizens of the Turkish Republic will be met,” said Bozkır.
EU funds to be used in safe zones in Syria
Bozkır added that the EU would grant 1 million euro to Turkey in July, as part of the 6 million euros pledged to be given to Turkey until the end of 2018.
This money will be spent “on improving the infrastructure of the residential places and the settlements to be constructed in safe zones to be formed inside Syria,” said Bozkır, adding that once the Turkish Red Crescent, Kızılay, is accredited, this money would be transferred to Kızılay.
“We and the EU have started to understand each other,” he said.