Turkey ‘threats’ over migrant deal won’t work: Juncker

Turkey ‘threats’ over migrant deal won’t work: Juncker

ISE-SHIMA - Agence France-Presse
Turkey ‘threats’ over migrant deal won’t work: Juncker

26/05/2016 04:53:08 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during a press conference in Shima, central Japan, Thursday, May 26, 2016. Juncker will participate in the Group of Seven meetings in the Ise-Shima region - AP photo

Turkey must uphold its side of a deal made with the European Union over stemming the flow of migrants, a top EU official said May 26, warning “threats” against the bloc will not work.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Ankara must ease strict anti-terror laws if it wants its citizens to enjoy visa-free travel on the continent.

Juncker was speaking after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 24 warned the European Union his parliament would block laws related to the landmark deal if it did not get its way on visa liberalization.

“We do expect that Turkey will stick to its commitments - and threats are not the best diplomatic instrument you can use,” Juncker told reporters in Ise-Shima, where he is attending the G7 summit, on May 26. “So one should stop to use them because they will produce no effect whatsoever.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned after talks with Erdoğan on May 23 that the target of an end-June implementation was unlikely to be met.

The agreement saw Turkey pledge to work to stop migrants crossing the Aegean to Europe and also readmit migrants who had crossed illegally.

EU officials hailed the success of the deal, but Ankara has grown increasingly uneasy about the bloc’s wariness to grant it the visa-free travel to the passport free Schengen area it was offered in return.

“If that [the visa exemption] is not what will happen... no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic,” Erdoğan said at the close of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on May 24.

“Our foreign ministry, our EU affairs ministry will have discussions with the Europeans. If there is a result then great. If not, then I’m sorry.”

Erdoğan also complained about the EU’s wariness in handing over to Turkey a promised three billion euros followed by another three billion to help Syrian refugees.

EU leaders are insisting that Turkey abides by 72 conditions before the visa exemption takes place, with a demand to change counter-terror laws proving particularly contentious.

Turkey rejects to make amendments to its anti-terror law, saying that it is fighting both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Turkey’s new minister for EU affairs, Ömer Çelik, said on May 25 that Turkey’s relationship with the European Union is important but it was not the “only option” for Ankara. 

Çelik, who replaced Volkan Bozkır in the new cabinet named by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, also told reporters that Turkey wanted the EU to drop its “double standards” in the fight against terrorism.