Minister of European Affairs of the Kingdom of Denmark Nicolai Wammen, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, has promised to work closely on the issue of visa liberalization, which is expected to mean a visa-free travel regime with Ankara.
“We will try to find a compromise,” Wammen said on Thursday afternoon at the conference “What Has Changed in Turkey Between the Two Presidency Terms of Denmark in 2002 and 2012?” held at İstanbul Kültür University, which played host to Wammen and Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs and chief EU negotiator Egemen Bağış.
Bağış at the conference said there is good will on both sides in regards to visa liberalization.
Wammen addressed the problem by assuring Bağış that Denmark's presidency would be a window of opportunity to improve Turkey's predicament, promising to work closely on the issue before it hands over its position this July.
In April, the EU agreed on a draft text that will give the European Commission the necessary mandate to start a visa liberalization dialogue with Turkey. The EU says Turkey first needs to finalize a readmission agreement for illegal migrants with the 27-member bloc before starting talks over facilitating visas for Turkish nationals.
On Friday, Cecilia Malmström, the EU's commissioner for home affairs, said in a news conference in Brussels that the EU would like to start a "visa dialogue" with Turkey in "a short time."
Meanwhile, Turkey has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with FRONTEX, the EU's border management agency, to cooperate against irregular migration. "The MoU, which establishes cooperation with FRONTEX, clearly shows Turkey's determination to work to fight irregular migration and the importance attached to cooperation in this field," said a written statement released by the Foreign Ministry on May 28.
Turkey, a candidate to join the EU, says its nationals must be able to travel to EU countries without first obtaining a visa. The EU has insisted on a series of preconditions, including Turkey's introduction of biometric passports in line with EU standards and the signing of a readmission deal, taking into consideration that Turkey has become a major transit point for irregular migrants from Asia and the Middle East trying to reach EU countries.
‘Works start on positive agenda’
Meanwhile, Wammen and Bağış discussed matters concerning the “positive agenda,” which deals with reforms on energy, human rights, judicial reform, constitutional reform, trade ties, foreign policy and counterterrorism cooperation.
Concerned with the fact that the negotiation process with Turkey might be further stalled with the starting of the EU term presidency of Greek Cyprus, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle recently took action under the name of “positive agenda” to make progress.
The positive agenda foresees informal talks between the EU Commission and Turkey on the blocked chapters in which views will be exchanged over how Turkey could make progress in them.
Bağış said Turkish bureaucrats will work with their European counterparts in eight working groups in Ankara and Brussels. One of these working groups, focusing on the “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights” chapter, already had its first meeting in Ankara recently.
“We went to the Ministry of Justice with Füle, and technical work has already started,” Bağış said.
Turkey opened accession talks with the EU in 2005 but progress has been slow since then due to the Cyprus dispute and opposition from some member countries, such as France and Germany, to Turkey's membership. Out of 35 chapters, which have to be successfully negotiated by any candidate country as a condition for membership, only 13 have been opened, 17 are blocked, four have not been opened yet, and only one is provisionally closed -- the science and research chapter.