As part of preparations for the prospective lifting of visa regulations for Turks traveling to the EU's Schengen countries, starting from late 2016, Turkey is expected to renew both its official identity cards and passports.
Accordingly, Turkey will begin printing new passports in March, it was announced in a visit to Brussels by Ambassador Mehmet Samsar, the Director General for Consular Affairs at the Turkish Foreign Ministry, accompanied by Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır.
The visiting Turkish delegation informed the EU Commission about ongoing work for the renewal of biometric passports and listened to advice from their counterparts, daily Hürriyet learned from diplomatic sources, who said Turkey has already purchased printing machines for the biometric passports and will begin the printing process by March 2016. The new passport will be the same color and shape as the current form.
Turkey will also be renewing its citizen identification cards along with the passports. The new ID cards, which will be used in place of passports while travelling to Schengen countries if Turkey fulfills all necessary requirements, will include a MRZ system to avoid the printing of fake cards.
The granting of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens in travels to Schengen countries by late 2016 came after the EU agreed to pay Turkey 3 billion euros to stem the flow of refugees into Europe and to re-energize Turkey's EU accession talks. The renewal of passports is among the conditions that Turkey needs to fulfill.
Cyprus referendum in March: Minister
Meanwhile, Turkish EU Minister Bozkır said in Brussels that the referendum for the reunification of Cyprus would be held in March 2016, but stressed that in the event of any setback in resolving the decades-long Cyprus issue, Turkey's EU membership process will not be hampered.
“Even if a problem occurs in the reunification of Cyprus, it will not stop the momentum that we have captured in the EU process. Greek Cyprus will also understand this time and the EU will persuade it to understand this matter if it doesn't do so” Bozkır told a group of journalists on Dec. 4 amid talks with senior EU officials in Brussels.
The minister, who is also the candidate country's chief negotiator, recalled that a U.N. peace plan deemed as the best shot to reunify the island was rejected by Greek Cypriots in a 2004 referendum. Soon after their no vote the Greek Cypriots were rewarded with EU membership while the Turkish Cypriots, who overwhelmingly voted for the blueprint, were left out in the cold.