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‘Think twice’ before axing migrant deal, EU tells Erdogan

Turkish army's special force members in camouflage perform as Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan observes EFES 2016, Turkey's largest military exercise with multifaceted operations, including air and amphibious assaults, in Seferihisar near Izmir, Turkey, Tuesday.

TAGS: Migration

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker told Turkey’s president Tuesday to "think twice" before turning his back on a landmark migrant deal that has slashed new arrivals to the bloc.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan "should think twice before saying, as some of his ministers have said, that the deal is not feasible," Juncker said a day after Turkey’s top diplomat warned the agreement would be over if EU didn’t make good on a visa waiver pledge.

Migrant arrivals to Greece have fallen sharply since the EU inked a controversial deal with Turkey on March 20, which took effect in early April.

But Ankara has threatened to abandon the deal if its citizens are not granted visa-free travel to most of the bloc. Brussels has conditioned the visa waiver on Ankara narrowing its anti-terror laws – a step Turkey has adamantly refused to take.

If Turkey walked away from the pact, Erdogan would be forced to "explain to young Turks, businessmen, journalists and others why they are confined to Turkish territory," Juncker said.

During a lunch hosted by the Presidential Press Association (APP) in Paris, Juncker said the Turkish president would also have to explain that "he is the reason that Turks cannot travel freely in Europe".

"I have had friendly relations with President Erdogan for a long time, but they are now tumultuous," admitted Juncker who said Turkey’s ambitions to integrate into Europe had "sagged" over the past two years.

He said the migrant deal was struck "after long days and long nights" of discussion and that Turkey should strive to meet all 72 of the terms imposed by the EU to secure visa-free travel.

"Were counting on Turkey to meet these conditions, including new counter-terror legislation that meets the European definition of terrorism," said Juncker.

Turkey has refused to narrow its definition of terrorism, under which it has prosecuted academics and journalists for publishing "terror propaganda", pointing out that it is in the midst of a major military campaign against Kurdish militants.

[AFP]

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