Turkey and the EU signed agreements today prefacing the start-up of negotiations that could potentially see the lifting of visa restrictions for Turkish citizens travelling to Europe. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan described this latest development as a “milestone” in relations between his country and the EU.
Turkish citizens have long complained about burdensome visa demands from European countries that were intended to slow down the influx of Turks flooding labour markets.
Prime Minister Erdogan said Turkey was no longer an exporter of labour and that with the massive improvement of Turkey’s economy over the past 10 years, job seekers were now coming into Turkey to find work.
“No one should be concerned when the visas are lifted,” Erdogan said during the signing ceremony. “We are not a country that is a burden [to the EU] but one that takes away its burdens.”
The agreements anticipate a deal on the lifting of visa restrictions within 3½ years, but Erdogan said he hoped this would happen much sooner.
Turkey has recently restarted EU membership negotiations which have been on hold for over three years mostly because of Turkey’s refusal to recognise Greek Cyprus and closing its ports and airports to the South. Added to which some EU countries are doubtful about the wisdom of allowing a large and mainly Muslim country to join the 28 nation bloc.