‘Impossible’ for Turkey to make changes to anti-terror law, says EU minister

‘Impossible’ for Turkey to make changes to anti-terror law, says EU minister

‘Impossible’ for Turkey to make changes to anti-terror law, says EU minister

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Turkey will not make any amendments to its law on combatting terror, the country’s EU minister said amid a disagreement between Ankara and the bloc, which has demanded changes to the law as a prerequisite for granting visa-free travel to Turkish citizens. 

“It is not possible to accept any changes in the anti-terror law in Turkey,” said Turkish EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır during a televised interview with Turkish private broadcaster NTV on May 11 in Strasbourg, where he went to hold meetings with top EU officials before the European Parliament starts to debate the visa liberalization agreement between Turkey and the EU. 

“In an environment when we have more than 450 martyred [security officials], when there are very serious terror operations being conducted, it is impossible to politically discuss the anti-terror law in Turkey,” Bozkır added. 

Clashes between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkey restarted in July 2015, after a more than two-year-old cease-fire and resolution process came to an end. Since then, the Turkish armed forces and police have been engaged in fierce clashes with PKK militants mostly in the southern and southeastern parts of the country, during which hundreds of people have been killed on both sides.
“Turkey’s anti-terror law is actually at the level of European standards,” said Bozkır. 

The European Commission on May 4 released a recommendation to the EP and European Council for Turkey to be added to the list of countries whose nationals can travel inside the EU’s Schengen Zone without a visa, subject to the fulfillment of conditions to realize this aim. 

While declaring the commission’s decision, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said May 4 that there were still five benchmarks that needed to be met by Turkey, including amendments to the anti-terror law.

Bozkır said making changes to the anti-terror law was not part of the visa liberalization agreement reached with the EU in mid-March. 

Under the Turkey-EU agreement, which aims to curb the flow of migrants to the bloc, Turkey agreed to take back all refugees who reached Greece as of March 20, in exchange for the EU taking the same number of Syrian migrants from Turkey as Turkey took from the EU. The agreement also covered the issues of visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, granting a total of 6 million euros to Turkey to be used for Syrian refugees in the country and the acceleration of Turkey’s EU negotiation process. 

If there is no progress on the visa liberalization process, then the elements of the Turkey-EU deal would be reconsidered, the minister said.

While in Strasbourg on May 11, Bozkır will hold a bilateral meeting with EU foreign affairs chief Frederica Mogherini. 

Bozkır is to hold separate meetings with EP President Martin Schulz, European People’s Party (EPP) Group Chair Manfred Weber, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group Chair Gianni Pittella, European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group Chair Syed Kamall and EPP member MEP Anna Maria-Corazza Bildt, the EU Ministry said in a statement released on May 10.