ANKARA: Turkey’s Europe minister has admitted there is no chance of completing a deal on visa-free travel to the EU by the July 1 deadline, during a visit to the Hague.
The European Union agreed in March to offer Turkey visa-free access by July 1, increased aid and speeded up accession talks in return for Ankara controlling the flood of migrants crossing into Greece.
But Turkey has yet to fulfil all of the conditions laid down by the European Commission for the visa agreement, including changes to Ankara’s anti-terrorism laws to meet EU concerns over human rights.
Turkey’s European Affairs Minister Omer Celik admitted the July 1 deadline would be missed in an interview late Friday with Dutch broadcaster NOS — the first official such acknowledgement by Ankara.
“If we are realistic, we are not going to achieve this date,” he said.
Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka also said on Friday that the July 1 deadline was not feasible, a view widely shared in Brussels.
“But we think it must happen as soon as possible,” the Turkish minister said.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month that the visa exemption must be introduced by October at the latest. Ankara has threatened to scrap the migrant deal with the EU altogether if visa-free travel is not forthcoming.
Celik said he believed Turkey had met all the necessary criteria and that there was “no question of making any change that would reduce our capacity to fight terrorism”.
Once Turkey has fulfilled the conditions laid down, the European Parliament would still have to give its approval to the deal. – AFP