Greece’s immigration minister called Wednesday on the European Union to draw up a back-up plan in case Turkey reneged on a controversial deal aimed at stemming the influx of migrants.
“We are very worried. We need a Plan B in any case,” Yannis Mouzalas told Germany's Bild daily.
Due to its geographic proximity to Turkey, Greece has become a key gateway country for migrants seeking to reach Europe. At the height of Europe’s migrant crisis last year, thousands of asylum seekers landed every day on Greek Aegean islands close to the coast of Turkey.
Arrival numbers have since plunged following an EU-Turkey deal reached in March, in which Ankara agreed to take back Syrian migrants arriving in Greece in exchange for billions of euros in aid and visa-free European travel for Turkish citizens.
But relations between Ankara and the West have deteriorated over criticism against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's massive crackdown following a failed coup.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Monday that Ankara could withdraw from the accord if Europe failed to allow visa-free travel for Turks by October.
But his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier rejected any talk of “blackmail,” telling Rheinische Post newspaper: “That is absurd.”
”The fact is there are conditions for the visa-free policy and they are known to everyone,” he said.
”Turkey pledged to undertake the necessary steps to hold up its end of the agreement. That is not yet the case and Turkey still has work to do,” added the German foreign minister.