Turkey and the European Union have agreed to sign the much-anticipated Readmission Agreement on Dec. 16 in Ankara in return for launching visa liberalization talks for Turkish citizens, after nearly two years of arduous negotiations.
The decision for the signing of the Readmission Agreement was announced in Brussels on Dec. 4 after Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu held meetings with Cecilia Malstom and Stefan Fule, European commissioners for home affairs and enlargement, respectively.
“It’s a historic day. We have reached the agreement today,” Davutoglu told reporters during the joint press conference in Brussels. “We will officially launch the process of visa freedom on Dec. 16 and we’ll sign the Readmission Agreement,” the minister said, citing that the processes would go forward in parallel. “Visa exemption for Turkish nationals will be introduced in three and a half years’ time at most, in line with the completion of necessary procedures. But maybe it will be completed much before than this,” he stressed.
Fule, for his part, thanked Davutoglu and the Turkish government for their contribution to the process. Fule said the agreement was part of the positive agenda on which Ankara and Brussels have agreed.
Turkey and the EU have agreed on the road map for visa liberalization for Turkish citizens in return for the signing of the Readmission Agreement in 2011 but negotiations could not commence due to deep mistrust between the two parties.
As a result of long negotiations, Turkey has agreed to accept migrants who illegally entered into EU territories via Turkey but has the right to suspend it in the case of EU’s non-compliance with the visa liberalization process.
The readmission process will bring an additional burden on Turkey’s shoulders but Brussels agreed to make financial assistance to Turkey to this end. Turkey will unilaterally make a declaration that its signature does not mean that it recognizes the Republic of Cyprus.
If the process goes smoothly after the deal is signed, Turkish citizens will be able to enter Europe without a visa in three years’ time. Turkey had been harshly criticizing the EU for not allowing visa-free travel rights to Turkish citizens.
Apart from its direct effects on Turkish citizens’ visa-free travel to the EU countries, the deal is also considered to have a positive influence on the accession process of Turkey. In a very first sign, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who hasn’t attended any EU meetings for three years, is expected to visit Brussels in January, three years after his last visit to EU’s capital.