EU’s Juncker warns Turkey’s Erdoğan on visa deal
BRUSSELSEuropean Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered a personal warning to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Nov. 8 saying that he would be held responsible if Ankara fails to meet EU criteria for granting Turks visa-free travel.
An EU offer to liberalize its visa system for Turkish citizens was part of a deal in March under which Turkey has agreed to halt the flow of Syrian refugees and other migrants into the EU via Greece.
Juncker said in a speech at Bruges that visas would not be eased if Turkey fails to meet all 72 required criteria, including amendments to its anti-terrorism law, which has caused a rift between the parties.
“Everything the Turkish authorities are doing today leads me to believe that in the end Turkey does not want to be ready to respect European standards,” Juncker was quoted as saying by Reuters.
And if visas were not eased, he said, Erdoğan would have to explain to Turks why that was so.
“We need Turkey ... but we cannot give up on our main principles,” Juncker concluded.
One day prior to Juncker’s remarks, Austrian Defense Minister Hans Peter Doskozil urged the EU nations to make new plans for stemming the inflow of migrants, saying he does not expect the migrant deal with Turkey to hold.
“Very significant cracks are apparent in this deal between Europe and Turkey and we simply have to prepare for what will happen if this deal no longer holds,” Doskozil said on Nov. 7 after meeting with his counterparts from Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia.
Austria, Macedonia, Serbia, and other countries coordinated an imposition in February of border restrictions that largely shut down what was then the main migrant route into Europe, causing a logjam in Greece before the deal with Turkey.
After hundreds of thousands of migrants crossed their territories in a wave of arrivals that began last year, Austria and its allies fear a collapse of the deal with Turkey will lead to another surge, playing into the hands of populist parties.
It is the unanimous opinion of all those present that all means, all available forces must be combined, that we must prepare ourselves for what will actually happen the next day if this deal between Turkey and the European Union collapses,” Doskozil said, without specifying what measures would be needed.
Turkey had previously threatened to abandon the migrant deal if the EU did not grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel.