No EU migrant deal if visas not lifted: Turkish PM
Verda Özer – DOHAThere will be no migrant deal with the European Union if visas are not lifted for Turkish citizens as agreed in a Turkey-EU deal in mid-March, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said.
“If they do not implement visa-liberalization [for Turkish citizens], then we will not implement the readmission agreement. These [things] are linked,” Davutoğlu said in Doha on April 28.
“This is an exam for all. We believe that we have passed our own exam very well. Hereafter, the European Parliament will take the necessary steps about visa liberalization. In my meeting with [European Parliament President] Martin Schulz, I said very clearly that everyone should be very careful about their remarks during this process,” he said.
The European Commission is expected to present its advisory report on May 4, where it will determine whether or not the EU should grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens. This report will later be evaluated by the European Council. The measure has to be approved by a qualified majority of EU member states at the council and a majority in the European Parliament to take effect.
Turkish EU Minister and Chief EU Negotiator Volkan Bozkır said April 28 that Turkey was going to fulfill all 72 criteria required to ensure the European Union grants its citizens visa-free travel by the deadline.
The Turkey-EU deal, sealed on March 18, aims at curbing the migrant influx into the EU after over 1 million refugees passed into the bloc in 2015. Turkey began taking back all migrants who reached Greece as of March 20, in exchange for the EU taking the same of Syrian refugees from Turkey. The EU has also pledged visa-free travel to Turkish citizen, if its meets all the necessary criteria, a total of 6 million euros by the end of 2018 and accelerated EU accession talks.
Implying that no one had heard of refugee deaths in the Aegean Sea since April 4, Davutoğlu said ensuring no more deaths was Turkey’s main objective. Around 6,800 people were making the perilous journey every day from Turkey to Greece via the Aegean when Turkey and the EU held a meeting in November 2015, but this figure has now fallen to 80 to 90 a day, he added.
“There is nothing more natural than asking for the EU to share this burden when we made the readmission agreement,” said Davutoğlu.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s distribution of food vouchers during her visit to the southeastern province of Gaziantep on April 23 had started to lift the burden of feeding refugees from Turkey, said Davutoğlu, adding that the EU would invest 1 million euros by July.
“We will see if they invest or not. If there are disappointments due to former experiences, then we will react,” he said.
Davutoğlu also commented on the process between Turkey and Israel to mend their tense ties, which came to a halt after the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla was raided by Israeli commandos in 2010, killing 10 Turkish citizens.
“[The meetings with Israel] have come to a very advanced stage. There is only [a few details] left for this agreement to result positively for our Gazan and Palestinian brothers,” said Davutoğlu. “God willing, it will be resolved.”