16 December 2013
Turkey and the EU have signed a readmission agreement on Monday in exchange for launching talks on visa liberalization for Turkish citizens.
The readmission agreement with the EU necessitates the processing of illegal immigrants who enter the EU through Turkey. In return, talks will be launched on visa liberalization to allow Turkish citizens to travel to EU countries without a visa within three and a half years at the latest.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the signing ceremony for the readmission agreement on Monday.
Erdogan said Turkey would not be a burden to the EU, but would take the burden off the EU countries with the readmission agreement which would facilitate the return of citizens of non-member countries traveling to Europe illegally.
"The deal is a milestone in Turkey-EU relations," said Erdogan adding that it will also initiate a new era.
"Nobody should be worried when visas are lifted with the EU. The visa requirements should have been removed long ago. The fact that they havenít been removed yet has only harmed the European Union," said Erdogan. "Turkey is no longer a country that people escape from, but one which people return to. Today, there is no situation which requires people to escape due to economic reasons or limitations on their freedom."
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a new term will begin between Turkey and European countries with the visa liberalization, adding, "It will both accelerate and increase work between the Turkish and the EU institutions."
Signing the readmission agreement on behalf of the EU, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom noted that cooperation between the EU and Turkey has taken a tremendous step forward.
"We are uniting people and building trust today. We have started in parallel two very important initiatives which will have an important effect on the relations in the near future," she said. "Turkey and the EU have been under pressure from illegal migration flows and we expect to see the positive effects of this agreement soon, particularly the reduction of migrant flow."
Stressing that the visa liberalization dialogue will be frank and transparent, Malmstrom added, "We will do our best to facilitate the smooth implementation of the dialogue providing technical and financial support."
Turkey, a candidate for EU membership, lies on a major route for illegal migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East.
Whereas about 70,000 people illegally crossed Turkish borders in 2011, this number dropped to 35,000 in 2012, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis said on Saturday.
Talks on the readmission agreement which allows the return of illegal immigrants have been stalled for years, largely due to Turkish distrust over the EU's willingness to ease visa rules.
Turkey began negotiations for EU membership in 2005, 18 years after applying to join the union. However, a series of political obstacles, notably over the divided island of Cyprus and resistance to Turkish membership from Germany and France, have slowed progress.