[QODLink]
Europe

Turkey and EU sign immigration agreement

Ankara to have illegal migrants sent back from Europe and visa restrictions for Turks to be eased as relations improve.

Last updated: 16 Dec 2013 15:02
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Turkish PM Erdogan said the agreement marked "a new process in Turkish-EU relations" [Reuters]

Turkey and the European Union have signed an agreement allowing EU governments to send back illegal immigrants crossing into Europe from Turkey in a move highlighting a thaw in relations with the 28-member bloc.

At a ceremony in Ankara on Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, also signed an accord to enter into discussions on dropping visa requirements for Turks visiting Europe.

[The agreement] can contribute to building trust and can lead to new types of cooperation

Cecilia Malmstrom, EU Home Affairs Commissioner

The agreements are a fresh sign of improved ties between Ankara and the EU after they began a new round of membership talks last month following a three-year hiatus.

"A new process in Turkish-EU relations is beginning," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech at the ceremony.

"With our signatures today, the European doors are being opened for visa-free travel by Turkish citizens."

Turkey has provisionally closed just one of 35 chapters it must negotiate with the EU to bring its laws into line with the 28-nation bloc's standards. It has 13 other chapters open.

"This autumn there has been a new launch in relations ... [The agreement] can contribute to building trust and can lead to new types of cooperation," Malmstrom told the Reuters news agency.

Turkish-EU distrust

Erdogan rejected what he said was an impression in Europe that Turks would surge into the EU if requirements were lifted.

"If EU visas are abolished, neither Turkey nor EU member countries will experience the slightest problem ... We are coming to take on a burden, not to be a burden," he said.

Talks on the "readmission agreement" to send back illegal immigrants had been stalled for years, largely due to Turkish distrust over the EU's willingness to ease visa rules.

Turkey lies on a major route for illegal migration into Europe from Africa and the Middle East, and some in Western Europe fear Turkish membership would widen the bloc's borders too far to the fringes of Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Malmstrom said the number of irregular migrants travelling into Europe from Turkey had been steadily falling to around 20,000 this year from more than three times that number in 2010, partly due to better border cooperation with Greece and the economic crisis making Europe less appealing.

406

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
Growing poverty is strengthening a trend among UK Muslims to fund charitable work closer to home.
join our mailing list