EU, Turkey row over terror puts deal at risk
VIENNA / COPENHAGENA row between Turkey and the European Union over the former’s anti-terror law has put a deal between the parties to curb migrant flows into the bloc in exchange for visa liberalization at risk.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has reiterated that Ankara will not change its anti-terrorism law, claiming that EU pressure on the issue constitutes “support for terrorism,” while EU Council President Donald Tusk has said Brussels is ready to fulfil its side of the deal so long as Turkey “plays by the rules.”
“Telling us to change our anti-terror law at a time when we are fighting both the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK and Daesh [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)] amounts to supporting terrorism. We will never give in to such impositions,” Çavuşoğlu said on May 16.
However, Tusk warned Turkey the next day that it should not try to change the rules of the Turkey-EU deal.
“With regard to the EU-Turkey deal, let me just say that the EU stands ready to fulfil its part. I am confident about the future of our cooperation as long as Turkey agrees to play by the rules, and not with the rules,” Tusk said May 17 during a joint press conference with Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in Copenhagen.
“Our strategy for the migration crisis works. In May only 60 irregular migrants [crossed] daily to Greece. In October last year that number was almost 7,000,” he said in a post on his Twitter account on the same day.
The European Commission on May 4 proposed visa-free travel to the Schengen zone for Turks as part of a deal that would see Turkey stem the refugee flow to Europe in exchange for accelerating its EU membership process.
However, among five remaining benchmarks for Turkey to address in order to receive visa-free travel, the EU has called for changes to Ankara’s legislation on terrorism – a demand rejected by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The EU says, ‘you will change the anti-terror law in return for visas’ ... Pardon me, but we are going our way and you can go yours,” Erdoğan said in a blunt message to the EU on May 6.
Last week, the European Parliament halted the visa liberalization process for Turkish citizens in the Schengen zone, citing Turkey’s failure to fulfil the necessary criteria.
Çavuşoğlu criticized the “double standards” in EU practices, saying some EU countries became members despite failing to meet the requirements to do so.
“You [the EU] have given visa-free travel to candidate countries without even starting the negotiation phase. Isn’t it then the right of Turkish citizens to enjoy this, too? We are talking about visa-free travel, not membership,” he said.
Stating that without Turkey, the EU would not be able to become a global power and solve its economic problems, Çavuşoğlu called for “good sense” in visa discussions.
“We will discuss the visa issue with the EU in a sensible manner. We need to make a road map. Everybody will keep their promises,” he said.
Tusk also criticized the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, for “crossing boundaries” by saying the EU was behaving “like Adolf Hitler.”
“I cannot stay silent,” Tusk was quoted as saying by AFP in Copenhagen on May 17.
Johnson, a leading campaigner for Britain to leave the EU, “crossed the boundaries” of acceptable political debate, Tusk said.
“Such absurd arguments would be completely ignored if they hadn’t been formulated by one the most influential politicians of the ruling party. Boris Johnson crossed the boundaries of rational discussion, demonstrating political amnesia,” he added.