- European Commission expected to confirm proposals this week and reject idea of ’emergency brake’ on flows
- Fears the extension of visa-free travel for tourists could lead to more asylum claims
- Rules would apply to the 26-strong Schengen zone, but visas would still be needed to come to Britain
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker
Plans to extend visa-free travel to Europe to 127 million people from Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia and Kosovo are set to be signed off by officials this week.
Under the proposals expected to be confirmed by the European Commission, tourists from the countries will be able to move freely within the 26-member Schengen zone for up to three months.
However, they would still require a visa to enter Britain.
There are fears the tourists’ ranks could be swelled by an estimated 400,000 Kurds from southeast Turkey displaced by a government clampdown. Some have predicted a sharp increase in asylum applications.
Turkey, which has a population of 75 million, has been included as part of a deal brokered by Germany for cooperation in controlling the flow of migrants to Europe.
The plans will be put to European leaders at a Brussels summit in the aftermath of the crucial June 23 referendum on Britain’s membership.
Turkey has not yet fully complied with an agreement to introduce more than 70 pieces of legislation to qualify for the waiver scheme.
The measures mostly relate to human rights and media freedoms.
But the commission is expected to endorse the plan on Wednesday, adding Turkey and Kosovo to Ukraine and Georgia.
If EU leaders back the visa waiver at the end of June, the European parliament will need to ratify the move.
Germany took in more than a million asylum seekers last year as part of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ‘open door’ policy, and is keen to curb the flow of migrants.
France and Germany have proposed a new ’emergency brake’ that could suspend visa-free travel for countries that no longer meet the specific criteria. But commission officials have indicated that idea has been rejected.
A senior EU source told the Sunday Times Turkey could threaten to “open the floodgates” irrespective of any safeguards .
“The threat will always be there, not just regarding visas, but also perhaps in disputes related to human rights or the Kurdish issue,” the diplomat said.
Meanwhile, thousands of migrants stranded in Greece are under pressure to leave informal settlements and move to government-run camps.
Authorities have been trying to clear ferry terminals in Piraeus in the run-up to this week’s Orthodox Easter holiday, which marks the beginning of the holiday season.
A similar action is under way in the northern Greek city of Idomeni, close to the Macedonian border, where 10,000 refugees have gathered.
‘These people are traumatised and afraid of uniforms so we are facing some problems persuading them to leave,” a Greek government spokesman said.
Prime Minister David Cameron greets European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Britain would not be covered by the extension of visa-free travel
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