European Commission proposes visa-free travel for Turks
The European Commission recommended on Wednesday visa-free travel inside Europe’s Schengen borderless zone for around 80 million Turkish citizens.

Turkey has five benchmarks, out of an initial total of 72, to fulfill by the end of June, according to the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body.

"Turkey has made impressive progress, particularly in recent weeks, on meeting the benchmarks of its visa liberalization roadmap,” European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said in Brussels on Wednesday.

The five remaining benchmarks touch on such issues as anti-corruption measures, data protection in line with EU standards, cooperation with the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol, judicial cooperation on criminal matters with all EU member states, and "revising the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards".

"There is still work to be done as a matter of urgency but if Turkey sustains the progress made, they can meet the remaining benchmarks," Timmermans added.

Turkey must also begin the use of biometric passports containing fingerprint information for travelers wishing to benefit from visa-free access.

In order for the visa waiver to take effect in July, the commission’s recommendation must first be approved by the European Parliament and EU member states, which have relied heavily on Turkey to stem the flow of refugees seeking to enter Europe.

Hailing the recommendation, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying: "Today, our citizens are closer than ever to travelling [visa-free] inside the EU."

It added, "Visa-free travel inside Schengen countries for Turkish citizens will doubtlessly make contributions towards deepening human, economic, and cultural relations with the EU."

Telling how the EU and Turkey agreed on the goal of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens on March 18, the statement said: "We hope that the visa obstacles to the Schengen region will be lifted by the end of June 2016."

On Tuesday, Turkey’s cabinet approved visa-free travel for citizens of EU member states seeking to visit the country, according to its Official Gazette.

However, the measure will only be implemented once the EU accepts visa liberalization for Turkish nationals.

Citizens of most EU member states in the Schengen borderless zone are already exempt from obtaining a visa before visiting Turkey.

Last Modified: 2016-05-05 10:55:42
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