ANKARA: Turkey is on the verge of completing the necessary work to secure visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the European Union, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday after parliament passed new legislation overnight.
The 28-nation EU depends on Ankara’s cooperation to maintain a March pact that has helped stem the flow of refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey, from which more than a million people reached Greece and Italy last year.
The European Commission is expected to declare on Wednesday that Turkey has broadly met the criteria for visa liberalization and ask EU governments and the European Parliament to approve the decision by the end of June.
“We are on the verge of completing the necessary technical work, including on passports. We want to see all that in the European Commission report,” Cavusoglu said in comments broadcast on NTV.
European visa-free regulations are limited to holders of biometric passports, which Turkey has not yet introduced.
“If there are shortcomings, this is a process like EU membership, and these shortcomings can be overcome with Turkey’s determination in the period ahead,” he said.
Late on Tuesday, Turkey’s parliament pushed through legislation key to the EU pact, clearing some of the last hurdles for the country to win visa-free access to Europe for its nationals.
The assembly passed a law that aims to regulate, through a monitoring commission, how law enforcement officers are disciplined or punished for alleged crimes. It then approved legislation concerning Ankara’s migrant readmission agreement with the EU.
The Turkish cabinet on Monday approved waiving visas for visitors from all 28 EU member states, once Europe relaxes its own visa requirements for Turks, another of the 72 criteria for the deal.
Freeing up visa rules for Turkey, a Muslim country of 79 million people, is a contentious issue among EU states. But Brussels is pressing ahead to keep the migration accord in place, as Europe struggles with its worst migration crisis since World War Two.