- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

LUXEMBOURG (AP) - Turkey is making progress on measures that need to be passed before visa-free travel to the European Union can be instituted, a senior EU official said Monday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, is standing by the overall deal with Turkey amid Europe’s refugee crisis.

Turkey must meet 72 conditions to get the visa waiver, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters that “so far, 69 or 70 are fulfilled.”

The visa offer is part of a deal to persuade Turkey to stop migrants coming to Europe. Erdogan has said the deal could collapse if the Europeans renege on visas.

Despite the increasing animosity between both sides since the deal was clinched in March, the refugee influx through Turkey into the EU has dwindled. On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came out strongly in defense of the cooperation with Turkey.

“This Turkey agreement is a model of the balancing out of our interests,” Merkel told a party meeting of her European EPP group. “That people don’t die at our borders, that our borders are protected.”

The main sticking point remains Turkey anti-terror laws, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refuses to change.

“The question remains open what Turkey does with the changes of the anti-terror laws. This is a condition of the European Union,” Juncker said.

The other sticking points are centered on disagreements on the use of the biometric passports.

To boost talks, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said that “it was decided that our EU minister travels to Brussels in the coming days.”

Kurtulmus insisted that Turkey’s determination to get a deal on visa-free travel was strong.

“We don’t want Turkey’s serious stance on the issue to be abused,” he said.


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