Egemen Bagıs, speaking after talks with EU officials during a visit to Brussels, said the process of visa liberalization could speed up if Turkey continues with its economic success and maintains its standing as an influential political actor in its region. “The average time needed [for the visa liberalization process to be completed] is three to four years. All other countries have so far managed to give their citizens visa-free travel to Europe within three to four years,” Bagıs said. “There will be those who will say Turkey [is different because] it is a big country with a big population but, God willing, we will be able to overcome all these [issues].”
Bagıs met with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström, Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle and Nicolai Wammen, minister for European affairs for EU term president Denmark. These talks came a day after EU member states formally authorized the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, to begin talks with Turkey on visa liberalization. In response, Turkey gave preliminary approval to an agreement with the EU on the readmission of illegal migrants transiting Turkey to reach EU countries, the signing of which is an EU condition to lift the visa requirement for Turks.
Both sides want to see how both processes proceed before taking further steps. Turkey has insisted that the implementation of the readmission deal depends on the EU keeping its promise to abolish the visa requirement. Some news reports have suggested the introduction of a visa-free travel regime may be as late as 2020.
“A new process begins. Negotiations will continue and we will remain firm [in our stance]. Our aim is to ensure our 75 million citizens travel visa-free to EU countries, just like the nationals of other EU candidates do,” Bagıs said.