The European Commission will press ahead with visa-free travel for Turkish citizens under conditions related to the migrant influx, as part of a controversial EU-Turkey deal.
This Wednesday marks the deadline for Turkey to implement the conditions set forth in the deal.
Several news outlets reported that the commission will approve the visa liberalisation scheme as part of the deal in which Turkey receives migrants who have arrived in Europe illegally.
The travel agreement means Turks would no longer have to apply for visitor visas, but would not be allowed to work or receive benefits. They would be free to visit and travel in the Schengen Zone for up to 180 days. The visa-free arrangement is already in place for countries like Canada and Australia.
The European Commission is expected to recommend visa liberalisation but it cannot enter force without the consent of the elected European Parliament as well as the European Council.
Visa-free travel for Turkish reforms?
The deal made in March saw the European Union agree to visa-free travel, as well as great access to funds. In return, Turkey would accept migrants who had crossed to Greece, and had to agree to 72 conditions in order to secure the deal. Among these conditions were better protection for minorities, more transparent government, and greater press freedom.
Some of these conditions required legal changes within Turkey – with a local outlet reporting that lawmakers were still implementing them just a day before the deadline.
Previously, European leaders feared that Turkey would not help control the influx of migrants without a visa concession for its citizens. One report suggested the country was hosting over 1.5 million refugees.Turkey has previously threatened to terminate the migrant deal of visa restrictions were not relaxed.
The EU-Turkey deal has not been without its critics, with human rights groups claiming it to be ineffective, and UN official Peter Sutherland stating that it could be illegal under international law.