EU ‘not doing Turkey a favor’ with visa-free travel, Erdoğan says
ZAGREB – Vahap Munyar
DHA photoThe European Union is “not doing Turkey a favor” by potentially granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel to EU member countries, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during an official trip to Croatia on April 27.
“Nobody has the right to act as if they are doing Turkey a favor or helping it,” said Erdoğan, adding that he explained this to European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during the G-20 Summit in Antalya last November.
“The date of the introduction of visa-free travel was already announced in Ankara back when I was the prime minister. It was announced then that visas would be lifted on October 2016. There were no conditions to this. Agreements were signed and it was going to come into force this September. Now I don’t understand how it can be presented as a big gain to bring it forward by four months. The presentation of such small things as big gains makes me sad,” Erdoğan told reporters during his visit to Zagreb.
An accord signed between Brussels and Ankara on March 18 sets out measures for reducing Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II, including stepped-up checks by Turkey and the shipping back to Turkish territory of migrants who arrive in Greece. In return, Turkey is slated to receive benefits including visa-free travel for its citizens to Europe, which is promised in the accord “at the latest” by June 2016.
Saying that “the bigger picture” must be seen, President Erdoğan said Turkish coastguards had saved “100,000 refugees in the Aegean and the Mediterranean.”
Touching on European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s recent comments about the EU dealing with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu rather than Erdoğan during negotiations, and his criticism in the areas of authoritarianism and press freedom, Erdoğan said it would “not befit a president” to reply to such “worthlessness and cheapness.”
“Whenever he [Schulz] meets me, he talks about how reputable my leadership is and how strong I am. What should we say about a person who says this to my face but then changes his attitude? I perceive this kind of behavior as an operation of the ‘German school’ against Turkey,” he added, noting that despite the fact that Germany is said to be making the biggest contribution in line with the migrant deal, “only an insignificant amount has reached Turkey so far.”
The Turkish president also slammed the condition that Turkey must present specific refugee project plans for use of the refugee financial assistance.
“I don’t understand asking Turkey for project plans for the assistance. [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel came to Nizip [the refugee camp in the southern province of Gaziantep] and saw what we have done. What more projects do you want from us?” said Erdoğan.
“No one should try to deceive us by talking about things like projects,” he added.
“Both Juncker and Tusk are good friends of mine. But the conversation has come to a point where I’ve had to toughen my stance a little. I said: ‘Are you doing a favor for Turkey? Are you helping? You insist on projects, but if you are going to contribute then do it. What projects are you talking about? What kind of logic is that?’ We’ll see how much of the contribution they talk about eventually reaches us,” Erdoğan.