Turkish officials say Ankara is moving towards closer relations with the European Union (EU), with the two sides making substantial progress in negotiations on immigration- and visa-related issues that have been stalemated for years, the Hurriyet Daily News reported
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated Ankara and the EU may begin negotiations on visa liberalization next week. If the talks are successful, Turkish citizens could in less than 3 1/2 years be able to travel to Europe without having to obtain a visa.
This would be very good news for close to five million Turks who work in Europe while retaining strong ties to their home country. Many of their relatives encounter problems obtaining visas to enter Europe due to EU concerns about illegal immigration from Turkey.
In exchange for the EU’s agreement to move ahead on visa liberalization, Turkey has reportedly agreed to sign a “readmission agreement” permitting EU member states to send back illegal migrants who entered Europe from Turkey, the Sofia Globe reported
Talks on the readmission accord had been stalemated for years.
Another complicating factor has been European criticism of Erdogan over anti-democratic practices and the use of excessive force against protesters by authorities. For now, however, such concerns appear to be on the back burner.
Warming relations between the EU and Turkey will be aided by a series of high-level visits this month and next, according to Hurriyet.
In January, Erdoğan is expected to make his first trip to Brussels in almost four years. He will meet with senior officials including European Parliament President Martin Schulz.
Both Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s trip to Italy next month and French President François Hollande’s expected visit to Turkey are also regarded as critical steps in Ankara’s efforts to warm ties with the EU and encourage movement forward on immigration and visa matters.
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