EU official says visa talks with Turkey far from complete

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EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

President of the European Union’s executive body, the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said even after a solution is reached after long negotiations with Turkey over a migrant and visa deal, lifting visa requirements for Turks may not happen within the timeframe envisioned in the initial talks.

Giving an annual address on the state of the union at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Junker said it is impossible to remove visa requirements for Turkish citizens as long as Ankara refuses to make reforms to its counterterrorism laws in line with requirements from Brussels.

After months of diplomatic wrangling, Turkey and the EU reached a hallmark deal in March that outlined the framework for cooperation to curb the migrant flow from Turkey to the EU countries. After accepting 1.1 million registered refugees in 2015 who traveled to the EU from Turkey by way of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, the EU felt an urgent need for a diplomatic settlement.

With Germany taking the lead in negotiations with Turkey, the two sides agreed on a deal that proposed lifting visa requirements for Turks in return for Turkey’s much-needed cooperation to stem the refugee flow.

For that goal, Ankara was required to meet certain criteria, among them revisiting its vague counterterrorism law. The dispute produced a new source of discord and friction as Ankara adamantly refuses to make any change.

Earlier this month European Parliament President Martin Schulz visited Ankara for talks with Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. While he too insisted on the European requirements, he said the dispute does not mean the end of talks.

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