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EU commissioner did not say Turkey ‘very close’ to visa-free travel: office

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In a contradiction of Turkish media headlines, the office of European Union Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has said the official did not state that Turkey was “very close” to fulfilling the criteria necessary to secure visa-free travel within the Schengen area for Turkish nationals.

“ … The Commissioner indeed confirmed that there are still 7 outstanding benchmarks and that the Turkish side is committed to progress quickly, and that the EU and Turkey remain strategic partners,” the commissioner’s office told Turkish Minute in an email, adding, “The Commissioner did not say whether and how close the Turkish authorities are to fulfilling the 7 outstanding benchmarks.”

After Avramopoulos spoke with journalists in Brussels on Wednesday, the Turkish media, including the state-run Anadolu news agency and the pro-government Daily Sabah, claimed the commissioner said Turkey was “very close to completing 72 criteria for visa-free travel.”

Avramopoulos has been the EU commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship since 2014.

The counterterrorism law, however, has long been an item for reform on the agenda of Turkey and the EU as one of the conditions for visa liberalization.

Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March 2016 that aimed to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human smugglers and improving the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The deal also allowed for the acceleration of Turkey’s EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area.

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