EU visa deal ‘naturally dead’ if not implemented by year’s end: Turkish EU minister
AP photoIf the deal signed with the EU on visa-free travel for Turkish citizens is not realized by the end of this year it will be “naturally dead,” Turkish EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik has stated.
Turkey agreed in March to stop illegal migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid for those in its care, the promise of visa-free travel for its citizens to much of the EU, and accelerated membership talks.
But there has been deadlock over the plan to grant Turkish citizens visa-free access to Europe, initially planned by October. Brussels first wants Turkey to change its anti-terrorism law, which it deems too broad for European standards.
Çelik said the EU should implement visa-free travel for Turks by the end of the year and stop insisting Turkey change its anti-terrorism laws or Ankara may cancel its side of a deal to readmit illegal migrants.
“Forcing this issue, despite the current situation in Turkey, is putting a roadblock in front of visa liberalization. We will therefore assume they aren’t keeping the promises they made,” Çelik told Reuters in an interview in Ankara on Oct. 18.
“In that case we won’t carry out the readmission deal and we will cancel it if necessary,” he added.
Çelik said Turkey had been keeping its promises, with illegal migrant arrivals from Turkish shores to Greece dropping to 20-30 people a day from a peak of 7,000 in 2015.
He also claimed that mass suspensions in the wake of the failed military coup attempt on July 15 had caused “no institutional weakness” in terms of Turkey’s relations with Brussels.