Turkey and EU agree to visa talks
ANKARA // Turkey and the European Union yesterday signed agreements starting talks for a possible deal that would lift visa restrictions for Turkish citizens travelling to Europe.
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called the pact a milestone in relations between his country and the 28-member bloc.
Under the agreements signed in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Turkey would in turn agree to take back immigrants who illegally enter the EU from Turkish territory.
The deals on visa-free travel and the readmission of immigrants come weeks after the EU resumed membership negotiations with Turkey that began in 2005 but have been stalled for more than three years, mainly because of Turkey’s dispute with EU-member Cyprus and scepticism in some European nations on admitting a populous, largely Muslim country into the group.
Turks have long complained about the visa demands from European nations that were designed to restrict Turkish citizens from flooding labour markets.
Mr Erdogan said Turkey was no longer an exporter of labour and that the country’s dynamic economy over the past 10 years meant that the country had now become a destination for jobseekers.
“No one should be concerned when the visas are lifted,” Mr Erdogan said. “We are not a country that is a burden to the EU, but one that takes away its burdens.”
The agreements envision a deal on the lifting of visa restrictions within three and a half years, but Mr Erdogan said he hoped it could be done much sooner.
The EU resumed negotiations with Turkey in November despite human-rights concerns and its criticism over a police crackdown on demonstrations.
* Associated Press
Published: December 16, 2013 04:00 AM