05:17 GMT +319 October 2019
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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU Council President Donald Tusk

    EU Commission Backs Turkey Visa-Free Travel Amid Terrorist Cautions

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    The European Commission has backed the plans to allow Turkish citizens visa-free travel around the European Union amid claims thousands of terrorists have crossed Turkey's border into Syria in the last few days.

    "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 turn, Turkey has accepted in principle visa-free entry for EU citizens, according to a notice in Ankara's official gazette, but only on condition that the EU implements its visa liberalization for Turkish nations in Europe.

    However, to be eligible for the deal, Turkey has to fulfill 72 conditions. Ankara has successfully met 58 — and if it succeeds Turkish citizens will be able to visit Europe without a visa and stay for up to 180 days a year.

    Once all 72 conditions have been met, Turkey can apply for EU membership which has been a long-time ambition for the country.

    The backing by the European Commission was mentioned by European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, on Twitter.

    "The European Commission is today proposing to lift the visa requirements for the citizens of Turkey," Vestager tweeted. But EU government and the European Parliament still have to approve visa-free travel for Turkey.

    Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship said:

    "The Turkish authorities have made remarkable progress since the 18 March EU-Turkey Summit and we trust Turkey is committed to delivering on all fronts as soon as possible. On the understanding that all benchmarks will be met as a matter of urgency, the Commission has decided to put forward a proposal to transfer Turkey to the list of visa-free counties."

    Visa-free travel for Turkish nationals will apply to all EU member states — except for Ireland, the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It does not provide a right to work in the EU.

    The agreement for visa-free travel in the Schengen zone between Turkey and the EU was included in a deal agreed in November as part of the EU's solution to the refugee crisis.

    From March 2016, any migrant arriving illegally in Greece will be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

    The one-for-one refugee deal means that for each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU will resettle another Syrian refugee.

    However, the deal has been met with caution from some members of the European Parliament who are concerned about continued fighting in south-eastern Turkey between government troops and Kurdistan Workers' Party rebels, described as terrorists by the government in Ankara.    


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