Turkey-EU migrant deal row deepens with fresh remarks

Turkey-EU migrant deal row deepens with fresh remarks

Turkey-EU migrant deal row deepens with fresh remarks

AFP photo

The ongoing row between Turkey and European Union over the implementation of visa-liberalization for Turkish citizens has deepened with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling on the EU to keep its side of the deal on visa waivers or otherwise prepare for the collapse of the migrant deal.

“The EU is not behaving in a sincere way with Turkey,” Erdoğan told French daily Le Monde on Aug. 8. 
Erdoğan said the EU had suggested that Turkey accept the readmissions of migrants coming from Turkey into the bloc in exchange for visa liberalization for Turkish citizens. 

“The readmission agreement and the visa liberalization were to come into force simultaneously on June 1. It is now August and the visa liberalization is still pending,” he said. “If our claims are not met, we will have to stop readmissions.”

Relations between Ankara and the West have deteriorated over criticism against Erdoğan’s massive crackdown following a failed coup attempt on July 15. Erdoğan criticized the West for not strongly condemning the coup attempt and showing solidarity with Turkey, expressing instead more interest in the crackdown. 

Ankara agreed in March to stop migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the EU and accelerated membership talks. 

However, the reciprocal visa-free access has been delayed due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and concern in the West about the scale of Ankara’s crackdown following the failed coup. 

Turkey should meet 72 criteria for visa liberalization, says Juncker 

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told Germany’s Tagesspiegel on Aug. 7 that Turkey had committed itself to meeting the 72 criteria for the visa-free travel and only after that could the EU lift the visa requirements for Turkish citizens. 

“If and when the visa liberalization is implemented largely depends on Turkey. We have our repeatedly signaled that we are ready to assist them with the necessary reforms,” Juncker said. 

Criticizing the response of Washington and European leaders to the attempted coup, Erdoğan said the Turkish people had been abandoned by the West. 

“The whole world reacted to the attack against Charlie Hebdo. Our prime minister joined a rally in the streets of Paris,” Erdoğan said, referring to the deadly militant attack on the office of the French satirical magazine in January 2015. “I would have hoped that the leaders of the Western world would have reacted [to the coup attempt] in the same way and not have contented themselves with a few clichés.” 

Turkey’s EU membership ‘10, 20 years’ away: Gabriel 

Meanwhile, Germany’s center-left vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said Turkey’s accession to the EU remained “10, 20 years” away. 

Speaking to Germany’s ARD television on Aug. 7, Gabriel said dropping talks with Turkey, currently Europe’s “difficult partner,” made little sense and that “every communications channel” to Turkey must be sought.
Gabriel dismissed Turkey’s accession bid – begun at talks in 2005 and centered on hopes for a visa-free entry to Europe – saying the EU was currently not in any shape to admit “even a small state” to its 28-nation ranks.

“The illusion … here comes someone to soon become a full member in the EU … that’s complete nonsense … that will not eventuate,” said Gabriel, who is also federal economy minister.

In Berlin on Aug. 8, a spokeswoman for the German Foreign Ministry repeated that reinstatement of the death penalty in Turkey would end its bid to join the EU. 

Erdoğan, speaking to ARD last month after the coup attempt, said the Turkish people wanted the death penalty to be reinstated and that those governing the country should listen to them. 

52 percent of Germans don’t want migrant deal 

Meanwhile, 52 percent of Germans think the EU should scrap the migrant deal with Turkey, while another 66 percent want the EU accession talks broken off, according to a poll published on Bild am Sonntag on Aug. 7. 

The Emnid survey for mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag showed 52 percent were in favor of the migration deal being terminated, compared with 35 percent who wanted it to continue, Reuters reported. 

More than two thirds of the 502 people surveyed on Aug. 4 also wanted an immediate freeze of aid payments to Turkey and 66 percent wanted the EU accession talks to be broken off.