Turkey summons EU envoy over remarks on migrant deal

Turkey summons EU envoy over remarks on migrant deal

ANKARA - Reuters
Turkey summons EU envoy over remarks on migrant deal

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Turkey has summoned the top European Union envoy in the country on May 17 to complain about comments he made last week on the migration deal between Ankara and the EU, Turkish foreign ministry sources said on May 18. 

Turkish officials took offensive at the European Union envoy to Turkey Hansjörg Haber’s use of a German saying to describe how a plan to ease visa restrictions for Turks travelling to Europe had started off in an orderly way but run into problems recently. 

Turkey and the EU have been discussing visa liberalization since 2013 and agreed in March to go ahead with it as part of a deal to halt waves of illegal immigration from Turkey to the EU. 

But progress halted when Brussels insisted that Ankara must also reform its tough anti-terror laws for another part of the deal - further talks on EU membership for Turkey - to resume. Turkey said that was out of the question. 

On May 13, Haber told a group of journalists that the old German saying of “Start like a Turk and end like a German,” had been reversed in the case of fulfilling the 72 criteria needed for the EU to grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel inside the EU. 

“We have a proverb. ‘To start like a Turk and end like a German,’ but it has been just the opposite here [visa liberalization process],” said Haber. “It started like a German and is being finished like a Turk,” he said, adding that even though the visa liberalization process had started in 2013, there had been problems lately in completing it.

“We have conveyed the anger felt over the ambassador’s comments to him, and that we condemn the expressions he used,” one foreign ministry source said. 

Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkır has criticized Haber for his remark, saying they were not appropriate for an ambassador and called him to explain what he meant. 

“No ambassador has the right to humiliate the people of the country he is in and say something about its president. This is the first rule of diplomacy,” he tweeted last week. 

The disputed migration deal includes funding to help Turkey care for migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who had hoped to use its shores to take boats to Greece. 

Turkey says the EU demand to ease anti-terror laws, which some European leaders and rights groups says Ankara uses to stifle dissent, was not possible at a time when it is battling the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.