The launching of EU-Turkey talks on visa liberalization is conditional on the signing of an agreement on the readmission of illegal immigrants transiting Turkey to reach EU destinations. But several EU countries are reluctant to introduce a visa-free travel regime with Turkey, fearing this would spark an inflow of Turkish immigrants seeking jobs in Europe.
Meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday, the EU interior ministers failed to agree on giving the EU Commission the mandate to initiate talks with Turkey on a deal that would eventually introduce a visa-free travel regime with Ankara. This was due to objections from EU heavyweights Germany and France, as well as Austria, the Anatolia news agency reported.
“The [EU] Council discussed the state of play of readmission agreements between the EU and third countries with a particular focus on Turkey. It is the intention of the Danish presidency to adopt Council conclusions on the matter at a later stage,” the EU said in a statement following the meeting.
Turkey, a candidate to join the EU, says its nationals must be able to travel to EU countries without first obtaining a visa. The EU has insisted on a series of preconditions, including Turkey’s introduction of biometric passports in line with EU standards and the signing of a readmission deal, taking into consideration that Turkey has become a major transit point for illegal immigrants from Asia and the Middle East trying to reach EU countries.
‘No compromise on reciprocity approach on readmission deal’
Responding to Thursday’s setback, Ankara has said it will not sign a deal for the readmission of illegal immigrants entering EU countries via Turkey until the EU launches efforts for visa liberalization.
“Turkey’s position and expectations on the matter are unchanged. Immediately after the EU initializes the visa liberalization procedures, we will sign the readmission agreement,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selçuk Ünal said, speaking to Today’s Zaman in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, the EU Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee has stated that the EU has to consult European Court of Justice (ECtHR) decisions when deciding to which countries visa-free travel would be applied.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ), Europe’s top court, cleared the way for Turkish businesspeople providing services in European Union member states to enter the EU without having to obtain visas first, in a February 2009 decision that experts have said is a step toward removing many other restrictions EU countries currently impose on Turkish nationals.