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Greek minister calls on EU to keep its promise to Turkey on visa-free travel

Greek Minister for Immigration and Asylum Notis Mitarachi speaks during an interview in his office of the Greek Ministry of Migration and Asylum in Athens on March 16, 2021. Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP

Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi has called on the EU to keep its promises to Turkey in line with an agreement in 2016 and make visa-free travel to Europe possible for Turkish citizens.

Mitarachi’s remarks came in an interview published in the German Die Welt newspaper on Monday.

Calling on Ankara and the EU to stick to the migrant deal they signed in March 2016, the Greek minister said: “The joint declaration must be respected by both sides. The EU has also made commitments to Turkey regarding visa-free travel and trade, which it must abide by. ”

The migrant deal — criticized by rights groups and seen as inadequate by Ankara — foresaw the payment of 6 billion euros to Turkey to keep asylum seekers from crossing to Bulgaria and Greece. Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens was also part of the agreement subject to the fulfillment of certain requirements.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has threatened to cancel the arrangement several times, wants progress on Ankara’s application to join the EU as well as talks on getting Turks visa-free travel and on the EU customs union.

In December 2013 the Visa Liberalization Dialogue between the EU and Turkey was launched, following the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement.

The visa liberalization process aims to abolish visa requirements for Turkish citizens and permit them to travel to Schengen Zone countries for short stays, specifically up to 90 days within an 180-day period.

In order to achieve the goal, authorities in Turkey have attempted to fulfill the requirements set out by the European Commission; however, the process has not yet been finalized.

Last year Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the EU would have to abolish visa requirements for Turkish citizens who plan to visit EU countries if they want the refugee and migrant situation at the Turkish-Greek border resolved.

Previously, President Erdoğan emphasized that the visa liberalization process with Schengen Zone countries was among the country’s top priorities.

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