News / Europe

EU Agrees to Talks on Visa-free Travel for Turks

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the audience during the Turkey-EU Readmission Agreement Signing Ceremony in Ankara, Dec. 16, 2013.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the audience during the Turkey-EU Readmission Agreement Signing Ceremony in Ankara, Dec. 16, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Ankara and the European Union have signed a much delayed agreement, under which Turkey will permit EU governments to send back migrants who have illegally entered the EU through Turkey. In return, Brussels has committed itself to talks on easing of visa requirements for Turks. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the deal a "milestone" in relations between his country and the 28-member bloc, but obstacles remain.
 
The agreement, which was signed on Monday, is the latest effort to put Ankara’s EU membership bid back on track. Semih Idiz, a diplomatic columnist for the Turkish newspaper Taraf and the al-Monitor website, thinks the agreement will play well among Turks and could help stem hemorrhaging public support for the country’s EU bid.
 
"In the visa dimension, where restrictions are eased especially for businessmen, especially for people who are going back and forth to Europe for legitimate reasons or for very normal reasons, then the public mood will change. Turkish public opinion when it comes to the EU is extremely fickle," said Idiz.
 
Brussels had been pressing Ankara for two years to sign a re-admission agreement.
 
Richard Howitt, a member of the European Parliament’s committee on Turkey, said that while Ankara will receive plaudits in Brussels for signing the agreement, he is not sure whether the commitment to visa-free travel for Turks within three years can be achieved.
 
"I think it's questionable. Everything is problematic and difficult to achieve, but the visa issue is clearly one of the most sensitive. Because migration is a sensitive political issue. And so, yes, it's going to be extremely difficult to achieve in the current political climate," said Howitt.
 
Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, says Turkish-EU relations remain cool despite this agreement.
 
"On the government side we don’t yet see this open embrace of Europe. It's more conditional at this point. But overall, the momentum towards Europe is still lacking in Turkey," said Ulgen.
 
Observers claim Ankara has become increasingly disillusioned over the slow progress of its EU bid, as well as recent criticism by Brussels over the Turkish authorities' crackdown on anti-government protests this summer.
 
Earlier this month, EU-Turkish tensions resulted in an angry exchange between Turkish government ministers and a visiting EU parliamentary delegation. Howitt, a member of the EU delegation, said relations have to improve if progress on Ankara’s bid is to be made.
 
"This is not the best moment in the history of inter-parliamentary relations between Turkey and the European Union and it has to get better. One of my calls was a return to diplomatic language. And that has not always been seen from leading politicians from the Turkish side. There has been some very hot language in the exchanges," explained Howitt.
 
Observers also point out that with the Turkish government facing critical elections next year, a boost in relations with the EU and the hope of visa-free travel will help its electoral prospects.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid