EU commissioner: Turkey's 3.5 year target for visa liberalization realistic

Photo: EU commissioner: Turkey's 3.5 year target for visa liberalization realistic / Turkey

The 3.5 year target placed by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu for the visa liberalization process for Turkish citizens is realistic and the European Union (EU) is prepared to share the process' financial burden, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom told AA on Sunday, Anadolu Agency reported.

Malmstrom is scheduled to attend the ceremony in Ankara on Monday during which the readmission agreement on returning third-country nationals who illegally enter the EU through Turkey will be signed. The ceremony will also mark the start of dialogue on visa liberalization for Turkish citizens.

In his statement from Brussels on December 4, Davutoglu had announced that the readmission agreement would be signed on December 16. He had also indicated that 3.5 years was the target for Turkish citizens entering the EU without visas.

"I find the 3.5 year target realistic. We have not even begun dialogue, therefore it's too early to create a concrete timetable," Malmstrom said.

The financial costs have been one of the most debated issues regarding the readmisson agreement on returning the third-country nationals irregularly entering and/or residing in Turkey and EU territories.

Turkey's calculations indicate that it may cost 1.2 billion euros annually.

"It is difficult to say anything clear about cost calculations. The figures are directly related to the number of people to be readmitted," Malmstrom noted.

Indicating that several different funds would be established after determining the need, she added, "we will decide in our talks with our Turkish friends whether the assistance will be monetary, technical, or humanitarian in character."

She explained that according to the agreement, third countries' nationals who were proven to have entered the EU illegally via Turkey would have to be re-accepted by Turkey and returned to their countries.

The emerging consensus on the agreement includes strict rules and standards about proving who will be returned to Turkey and how such a process will be determined, Malmstrom stressed.

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