Turkey, Europe in fresh migrant deal, visa row
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks during a Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq, co-hosted by the United States, Canada, Germany, Japan, Kuwait, and The Netherlands at the State Department in Washington, U.S., July 20, 2016. REUTERS photoTurkey and the European Union have found themselves embroiled in a new row over the migrant and visa-free travel topics.
One day after Turkey summoned the German chargé d’affaires at Berlin’s Ankara embassy after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was banned from making a speech by video in Cologne, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier dismissed his Turkish counterpart’s remarks regarding the Turkey-EU migrant and visa liberalization deals.
Asked if Turkey could “blackmail” the EU over the refugee pact, Steinmeier told the Rheinische Post newspaper: “That is absurd.”
“The fact is there are conditions for the visa-free policy and they are known to everyone,” Steinmeier said Aug. 2.
“Turkey pledged to undertake the necessary steps to hold up its end of the agreement. That is not yet the case and Turkey still has work to do.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on July 31 that Ankara could withdraw from the accord as it would abandon a deal with the EU reached to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc if the EU did not grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens by October.
The row was initiated with a German court’s ban on Erdoğan from holding a live speech via videoconference during an anti-coup protest in Cologne on July 31.
German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel hit back Aug. 1 during a campaign rally for a state election, saying “Germany or Europe must in no way let themselves be blackmailed” by Turkey over the migrants pact.
Late on Aug. 1, Çavuşoğlu engaged in a Twitter spat with his Austrian counterpart, Sebastian Kurz, over the migrant deal.
Writing over Çavuşoğlu’s remarks, the Austrian foreign minister tweeted, “I do not accept Çavuşoğlu’s ultimatum and return it. The EU cannot proceed with dependencies and must protect its borders.”
Replying to Kurz’s tweet, Çavuşoğlu later said, “Das ist nicht [This is not] ultimatum Sebastian, it is my opinion. Freedom of expression my friend.”
The March 18 deal aims to discourage irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland was set to arrive in Turkey on Aug. 3 for meetings with officials and opposition leaders after Turkey suspended the European Convention on Human Rights, which is reinforced by the council’s European Court of Human Rights, following the failed July 15 coup attempt.
Jagland is due to meet Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Çavuşoğlu and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ as well as party leaders.