March 9, 2016 / 10:24 AM / a year ago

Germany's CSU eyes conditions for Turkey visa move in EU migrant deal

BERLIN (Reuters) - Some senior members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc on Wednesday said visa-free travel between the EU and Turkey should be agreed only if Turkey is given 'country of safe origin' status, potentially complicating EU efforts to finalise a migrant deal.

Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU), part of the conservative grouping, has already voiced reservations about Turkey's demands linked to any EU deal which is to be finalised by March 17-18. The CSU is also sceptical of Ankara's bid to join the EU.

Under a draft agreement aimed at stemming the flow of migrants to Europe, Turkey wants to bring forward to June, four months earlier than planned, a scheme to make it easier for Turks to travel without visas to the free-travel Schengen zone.

If Turkey was declared a 'country of safe origin' it would be easier to deport people back to there as it would be deemed not to be dangerous.

"Visa liberalisation is an invitation to abuse," CSU's spokesman on interior affairs Hans-Peter Uhl told Die Welt.

"A condition for a liberalisation must therefore be the classification of Turkey as a land of safe origin," he said.

The idea appeared to win backing from several other leading members of the CSU, including Angelika Niebler who described it as "a very sensible idea" on Deutschlandfunk radio. She said she was "very very critical" of liberalising visa rules.

CSU General-Secretary Andreas Scheuer also said he wanted to "intensively" discuss this point with Merkel.

Additional reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Madeline Chambers

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