The visa waiver deal between Turkey and the European Union has been a skittish one. In March 2016, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncer and Erdogan came to an agreement that Turkey would accept undocumented immigrants’ return to Turkish soil provided that the need for short-term Schengen zone visas was ended. At the end of May, Turkish foreign minister, Cavusoglue stated that if EU visa free travel in the zone was not handed over, Turkey would be forced to renege on its agreement. For the moment, citizens can only be enrolled in the visa waiver program if all 72 requirements are met. Turkey’s refugee deal has pushed European officials into rushed action to liberalize EU visa usage.
Turkey is behind schedule with five of its requirements, which will have to be fulfilled in June. The primary source of animosity between the Turkish president and the EU is the fact that Turkey is reluctant to change its anti-terror laws and disagrees on the use of biometric passports. Every European country defines terrorism differently, which has created some confusion for the minister. Other requirements Turkey still needs to meet are:
- To cease government corruption according to the EU’s guidelines.
- To sign a Europol agreement committing to cooperation with continental law enforcement.
- To keep personal data protected according to adjusted laws that meet EU criteria.
- To cooperate with criminal issues with the rest of the EU.
Neither Russian nor China will comply with the EU’s requirements, but other countries have already gained visa-free travel rights.
For now, Turkish citizens who reach Europe through the Aegean Sea might be sent back to their home country. The EU will replace each individual with a Syrian refugee living on Turkish soil.
The EU has committed to offer financial aid to Ankara if the Turks stick to their agreement. On 31 May 2016, the EU placed an emergency brake on the visa waiver. The safeguard clause was created to assure Turkey and three other countries of free travel in the Schengen region, but the brake could lead to sudden suspension of access if enough people outstay their 90-day limit.
The president of the European Commission calls the Ankara deal an important tool for resolving the migration crisis. Critics of the EU visa debacle are concerned that if Turkey joins the EU, hoards of immigrants will try to enter the UK, given that Britain isn’t a part of the Schengen zone. The Readmission Agreement will probably be brought to agenda by the European Parliament should Turkey not make amendments to the Anti-Terror Act.
Update: you can read the list of countries and their visa status here. This is the Visa Liberalisation scorecard as of May 2016.