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05/12/2016

Turkey to abolish visas for Greek Cypriots as part of EU deal

Turkey to abolish visas for Greek Cypriots as part of EU deal

Greek Cypriots, along with nationals of the rest of the EU, are set to be offered visa-free travel to Turkey.

[James Crisp/Flickr]

Greek Cypriots will no longer require visas to visit Turkey under an EU-Turkey agreement on visa liberalisation, but this does not amount to Turkish recognition of Cyprus, a Turkish official said on today (3 May).

Turkey’s cabinet has approved waiving visas for EU citizens once Europe relaxes its own visa requirements for Turks, according to a decision published in Turkey’s Official Gazette.

The move is one of the 72 criteria required by Brussels for Turkey to win visa liberalisation. Tomorrow (4 May), the executive is expected to propose going ahead with the deal to try to ensure Turkey’s continued cooperation in a wider agreement on stemming illegal migration.

Commission set to propose lifting of visa requirement for Turkey

Despite deep public misgivings in some countries, the European Union will this week drive
forward a plan to grant Turks visa-free travel to Europe as a reward for having reduced a flood of refugees and migrants into Europe to a trickle.

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One of the biggest obstacles in Turkey’s relations with the EU is Ankara’s refusal to recognise EU member Cyprus, the Mediterranean island divided for four decades
between the Turkish-controlled north, which is recognised only by Ankara, and the Greek Cypriot south where the government has international recognition.

The Turkish official confirmed Ankara’s relaxation of visa requirements for EU citizens would also apply to Greek Cypriots.

“This doesn’t mean the recognition of Cyprus. If the EU abolishes visas for Turkish citizens, then we will also abolish visas for the remaining EU countries,” the official said.

“Right now, Greek Cypriots can already travel to Turkey, but we are issuing their visa on a separate paper. With this new arrangement they won’t need a visa.”

Cyprus: Make Turkish an official EU language

Greek-Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has asked the Dutch EU Presidency to add Turkish to the bloc’s 24 official languages, in order to boost attempts to reach a reunification agreement on the Mediterranean island.

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The 28-nation EU depends on Ankara’s cooperation to maintain a March agreement that has helped stem the flow of refugees and migrants arriving from Turkey, which saw more than a million people reached Greece and Italy last year.

Liberalising visa rules for Turkey, a Muslim country of 79 million people, is a contentious issue among EU states. But Brussels is pressing ahead so it can keep the migration accord
in place.

Turkey has to meet a list of 72 criteria — ranging from biometric passports to respect for human rights — that were set when Brussels and Ankara first talked about 90-day visa-free travel to the Schengen area.

EU member states and the European Parliament must still approve the Turkey visa plan after it clears the Commission, which is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Turkey has pressed the EU to respect its promises over what the government in Ankara regards as its big win from the migrant deal signed at a summit on March 18.