Turkey to abandon EU migrant deal if no visa-free travel

Turkey to abandon EU migrant deal if no visa-free travel

Turkey to abandon EU migrant deal if no visa-free travel

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Turkey has said that it would have to abandon a deal with the European Union reached to stem the flow of migrants into the bloc if the EU did not grant visa-free travel to its citizens. 

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung  (FAZ) that if the EU did not grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, then it would abandon the March 18 Turkey-EU migrant deal.

Çavuşoğlu said the agreement on stemming the refugee flow had worked because of “very serious measures” taken by Ankara. 

“But all that is dependent on the suspension of the visa requirement for our citizens, which is also an item in the agreement of March 18,” he was quoted by Reuters as telling FAZ on July 31. 

“If visa liberalization does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back [refugees] and the agreement of March 18,” he said, adding that the Turkish government was waiting for a precise date for visa liberalization. 

“It could be the beginning or middle of October - but we are waiting for a firm date.” 

European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said recently he did not see the EU granting Turks visa-free travel this year due to Ankara’s crackdown after the failed military coup in mid-July.

In response to Çavuşoğlu’s remarks, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said Germany and the EU should not be blackmailed by Turkey in talks on visa liberalization for Turkish nationals. 

“It is up to Turkey if there is or there isn’t visa liberalization,” Gabriel said during a trip to northern Germany, according to Reuters. “Germany and Europe should under no circumstances be blackmailed.” 

Turkey had agreed to take back all irregular migrants reaching Greece via Turkey as of March 20, according to the EU-Turkey migrant deal reach on March 18. In exchange, the EU would take in the same amount of Syrian refugees from Turkey. 

As of Aug. 1, only less than 500 migrants were sent back to Turkey from Greece, while even a smaller amount of Syrian refugees were sent to the EU from Turkey.
The EU said Turkey must respect all the conditions of its migrant deal with the bloc before it can secure visa-free travel to Europe for its citizens.

EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Aug. 1 that “if Turkey wants visa liberalization the benchmarks must be met,” according to the Associated Press.

Within the scope of the deal, the EU vowed to grant a total of 6 billion euros to Turkey to be used for Syrian refugees in the country, while also granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel inside the Schengen zone, on grounds that Turkey met the necessary requirements. 

Last week, Greek data showed that migrant arrivals in Greece inched up in the past two weeks after the failed coup attempt in Turkey.

The average rate has increased to 90 people a day, compared to 30 before the attempted coup, according to the data, AFP has reported.

At the height of the migrant crisis last year, thousands of people would land every day on Greek Aegean islands close to the coast of Turkey.

Most were allowed by Greece to continue their journey northwards, prompting an outcry among several European states that hastened to shut their borders earlier this year.