Turkey on Monday demanded equal treatment from the European Union on visa requirements, as it opened accession talks with the 27-nation bloc on one of the most extensive policy chapters, environment, during a ministerial conference in Brussels.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, speaking at a press briefing following the meeting with EU officials, said Turkey would soon take steps to meet the bloc’s conditions for visa-free travel -- such as the introduction of biometric passports and the signing of an agreement on readmission of illegal immigrants -- and warned that the EU would impose double standards if it still refuses to allow Turkish citizens to travel to member countries freely.
The EU lifted visa requirements for three Balkan countries, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, over the weekend despite the fact that none of these countries has started even accession talks with the bloc. Davutoğlu said Turkey backed the EU decision to lift the visa requirements for Balkan nations and called on the bloc to lift visa restrictions for citizens of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina as well. “But there is no excuse for why this right has not been granted to citizens of Turkey, a country negotiating membership,” he added.
“We do want to know what technical conditions must be met to freely be able to visit the Schengen region. … We can be ready in one to two months and believe that the EU will have no excuse after that. If the visa requirement is still in place despite all this, then we will consider this as an act of imposing double standards,” Davutoğlu said.
Carl Bildt, the foreign minister of EU term president Sweden, also attended the ministerial conference and said the bloc would focus more on the visa issue in the coming years.
Outgoing EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn declined to make any commitment on behalf of the EU Commission but said he hoped that the EU would ask Turkey to meet the same technical criteria it asked the three Balkan countries prior to ending visa restrictions on Turkish citizens.
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