Turkey’s EU affairs minister has said his country met most terms of a migrant deal, and it’s Europe’s turn to deliver on its promises. The EU insists Ankara must amend its terror laws to gain visa-free access to Europe.
Volkan Bozkir, Turkey’s EU affairs minister, said Wednesday that the migrant deal with the European Union faced “a very dangerous moment” following Europe’s inflexible approach on his country’s anti-terrorism laws.
“All the agreements we have achieved until now, built on confidence, goodwill, taking responsibilities, and also taking political risks, is facing a very dangerous moment,” Bozkir told a press conference in Strasbourg.
Brussels insists Ankara must still meet five more benchmarks if it wants visa-free travel to Europe for its citizens.
“This is not a mathematics problem. This is a political problem,” Bozkir argued. “Our interpretation is that we have fulfilled our expectations sufficiently enough,” he added.
Turkey’s terror laws
One of the major hurdles between the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal is Ankara’s anti-terror laws. The push to give Turkey visa-free travel is part of an accord that ensures Ankara’s cooperation in stemming the wave of refugees heading to Europe. The agreement, however, requires Turkey to implement reforms, including an easing of its controversial anti-terror law that has been used to target journalists and academics.
“This change in anti-terror law is completely impossible. Plus, we think that our law is relevant to the European standards,” Bozkir said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes the legislation is necessary to defeat militants belonging to the PKK and “Islamic State” (IS), a militant group active in Syria and Iraq.
In a speech in Ankara on Tuesday, Erdogan lashed out at the EU, alleging that Europe provided safe havens to political wings of terrorist groups. He once again said his government would not “take instructions from Europe” on this issue.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere voiced skepticism about the EU-Turkey deal after Turkish President Erdogan rejected EU terms and conditions, German newspaper Bild reported on Wednesday.
According to the paper’s report, de Maiziere said the Turkish president was apparently “not ready to meet the criteria.”
Erdogan advisor raises the stakes
Burhan Kuzu, one of Erdogan’s advisors, posted a tweet saying that the EU officials were facing an important decision on visa-free travel that would affect the entire refugee agreement.
“If they make a wrong decision, we will send off the refugees,” he wrote.
Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, however, said the refugee accord between Turkey and Brussels is not in danger, and that the Turkish parliament has the majority needed to push through required reforms.
“The parliament will decide on it, not the president,” he told Bild. “It would be a major contradiction if the deputies are pushing for EU membership and at the same time refuse to vote for European standards.”
Schulz to find new deadline
The EU Parliament has also threatened to block the initiative if the dispute persists.
Prior to the meeting with Ankara representatives, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said it was “absolutely out of the question” for the deputies to start discussing the issue before Ankara had met the terms.
Speaking to German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday, Schulz added that he saw no chance of resolving the issue before the July deadline.
“My task is to check if the if the legal requirements for a parliamentary discussion are fulfilled,” he said. “My result is: they are not fulfilled.”
Schulz and Volkan Bozkir discussed options to set a new October deadline.