Angered Turkey demands visa-free travel to EU′s Schengen area | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.12.2009
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Angered Turkey demands visa-free travel to EU's Schengen area

Turkey says it wants the European Union to drop visa restrictions on its citizens seeking to travel to the bloc after restrictions for three other non-EU countries were lifted Saturday.

The Turkish and EU flags side by side

Turkey has faced several obstacles in its EU accession bid

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says the country deserves to have visa restrictions against it dropped by the EU after Serbian, Montenegrin and Macedonian citizens were granted visa-free travel rights to the Schengen area.

Davutoglu said the visa waiver should be granted despite little progress being made with Brussels on Ankara's EU membership aspirations.

"It's unacceptable that certain Balkan countries that are in the initial stages of the membership process and have not begun negotiations have been given the Schengen privilege, while Turkey, considering the level that Turkish-EU relations have reached, has not," Davutoglu said at a news conference.

"We will follow this closely from now on," he said, according to the state-run Anatolian news agency.

Citizens of the 25 signatory countries to the Schengen Agreement are allowed to cross into other Schengen countries without a visa. Certain countries within the EU have not implemented the agreement in full, and travellers to those countries - Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Liechtenstein, Ireland and the UK - must still present a passport at the border.

Davutoglu had previously criticized the EU plans to lift visa restrictions for Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, while keeping them for Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania, two countries with Muslim majorities.

"The way it's being done by the EU is giving the wrong signals," a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said.

Predominantly Muslim Turkey, a country of 71 million, has hit several roadblocks in its EU accession bid. The EU has frozen several aspects of its talks with Ankara as a result. Among the difficult issues are Turkey's failure to open its port and airports to ships and planes from EU member Cyprus. Turkey's relations with Cyprus have long been strained, with Turkey having a military presence in the internationally unrecognised independent north of the island.

dfm/dpa/Reuters
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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