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

Greek Migration and Asylum Minister Notis Mitarachi on Monday urged the EU to keep its promises to Turkey as part of a 2016 agreement to provide visa-free travel to Europe for Turkish nationals.

Mitarachi made the remarks during an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper as he addressed the migrant crisis, referring specifically to the looming threat of a migrant influx to Europe following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

 “The joint declaration must be respected by both sides,’’ he said,  “The EU has also made commitments to Turkey regarding visa-free travel and trade, which it must abide by.’’

Turkey and the European Union signed a deal in March 2016 on the movement of Syrian refugees through Turkey to the EU, with Turkey agreeing to take back refugees who arrived irregularly in EU countries in exchange for money and visa-free travel to the EU for Turkish citizens.

But the bloc has cited Turkey’s authoritarian crackdown on dissent since the failed July 2016 coup attempt as a stumbling block preventing the deal from being fully realised, due to a number of EU benchmarks that must be met before visa restrictions can be lifted.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged the EU to update the 2016 agreement and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu last year called on the bloc to abolish visa requirements for Turkish nationals looking to visit EU countries amid a build-up of migrants among the Turkish-Greek border, which serves as the gateway into Europe for many refugees.

Mitarachi on Monday also called on the EU to work more closely with international organisations on the ground in dealing with the Afghan migrant crisis, Die Welt said.

 

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