Turkey has fulfilled all 72 requirements set by the EU to secure visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the 28-nation bloc, says Turkey's presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin.
Turkey has completed all of the European Union's 72 criteria for granting visa free travel to the bloc and has handed over the relevant documents, Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Wednesday.
As part of a controversial agreement signed in March 2016, the EU offered Ankara billions of euros and visa liberalisation in exchange for Turkey stemming the flow of migrants after Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.
But Turkey has long expressed its irritation over Brussels' failure to approve visa liberalisation because of its continued calls for Ankara to reform its anti-terror laws.
In a news conference in Ankara, Kalin said visa free travel in 2018 would give fresh momentum to Turkey's relations with the union.
Turkey had submitted all related documents to EU officials ahead of an EU-Turkey summit in March, Kalin said on Wednesday.
He hailed the development, saying "from today we can say there is a new process."
TRT World's Andrew Hopkins reports.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik also said Ankara had finalised a draft document for Turkish citizens to travel to Schengen countries visa-free and would be submitting it to the EU Commission soon.
“Turkey has met all 72 requirements for the deal,” he said, adding that Ankara had also proposed a summit between the EU and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the provisional date of June, 2018.
“Such a summit might be productive in terms of delivering a global message,” he said.
Turkey's anti-terror laws
The Commission had demanded that Turkey change its definition of what constitutes a "terrorism offence," to ensure that security laws are not used against media or academics.
"Certain arrangements were made in a way that will not pave the way for the weakening Turkey's struggle against terrorism and these were submitted to the EU," Kalin said.
Kalin said all outstanding criteria had been met, without providing details. He did not elaborate on how Turkey intended to satisfy the EU on anti-terror laws.
Talks with the bloc
Before the talks began, the Commission said that Erdogan would meet in Varna, Bulgaria, on March 26 with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, whose country holds the bloc's rotating presidency.
On 26-th of March #Bulgaria will host EU-Turkey meeting with @eucopresident Tusk, @RT_Erdogan, @JunckerEU. Discussions on #EU-#Turkey relations, regional and international issues#EU2018BG— Boyko Borissov (@BoykoBorissov) February 7, 2018
Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said the talks would focus on "subjects of mutual interest and recent developments in Turkey. That includes obviously the rule of law and fundamental rights."
The EU is concerned about the media and rule of law in Turkey following the failed coup and Ankara's military campaign in northern Syria. It is wary, however, of angering a country upon which it depends to limit the flow of refugees into Europe.
Joining to EU
Membership talks that officially began in 2005 have stalled since the coup bid, to the consternation of Erdogan who previously said the wait was "exhausting".
"If this is secured, the perception of the EU will change in Turkey without a doubt," Kalin insisted, adding Turks have long deserved the right to access the Schengen zone without the need for a visa.
According to Metropoll research company, 51.7 percent of Turks surveyed in January said Turkey should not become an EU member, compared with 35.5 in support of it.
Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey should renounce its ambition of becoming a member of the EU and settle instead for a looser "partnership."
But Erdogan told an Italian newspaper this week that Turkey rejected such proposals, saying Turkey wanted full membership and urged the EU to "keep its promises."