Visa-Free EU Travel for Turkish Citizens More Possible Than Ever

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On Wednesday (May 4), the European Commission will reach a decision on whether Turkish citizens should be granted visa-free travel within the EU's Schengen area.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks after the EU and Turkey signed agreements in Ankara, Turkey (File) - Sputnik International
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The move — considered extremely likely to go ahead — is essentially in exchange for Turkey's migration deal with the European Union, accepting large numbers of failed asylum seekers upon deportation from neighboring Greece. This, despite Turkey failing to meet a number of conditions set by the EU.

The change in visa regulations will still need to be passed by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, and despite fears that it could lead to a surge in migrant workers throughout Europe, the rules will only apply to tourist visas.

The anticipated visa liberalization will not permit Turkish citizens to work or seek benefits in the EU.

Nevertheless, the proposed changes have been met with skepticism from right-wing political groups, during what is a sensitive time for the European Union.

Anti-EU campaigners in the UK for example, have been critical of the proposals for some time — suggesting that they are open to abuse. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader, Nigel Farage said last month: "The EU is negotiating visa free access for all Turks, all 77 million… But the reality is that a lot of people will disappear or when they get to Germany claim their rights of family reunion.

"The real problem isn't people trying to get to Britain illegally; the real problem is that in a few short years all of the people that came will have German passports, Dutch or Belgium passports."

​Human rights organizations have raised concerns over the proposals too, given Turkey's recent record on press freedom, and general freedom of speech under President Erdogan.

Approximately 2000 instances of legal cases have been triggered in response to "insulting the President," including the recent case of German satirist Jan Böhmermann.  Turkey ranks at 151 in the Reporters Without Border press freedom index.

​Opponents of President Erdogan argue that further integration by the European Union could send the wrong message, effectively endorsing a regressive regime in exchange for the easing of immigration numbers in the rest of the EU.

The granting of visa-free travel to Turkey is part of a wider move by the EU which could see controls eased with the likes of Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine. Given that those countries are not even candidates for EU membership at the moment, it would undoubtedly be politically difficult to exclude Turkey. 

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