Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday (25 July) accused the EU of not paying its way under a deal to send Syrian refugees back across the Aegean.
Ankara and Brussels signed a controversial deal in March, in which Turkey agreed to take Syrian migrants landing on Greek islands in exchange for political and financial incentives.
The deal included billions of euros in aid and visa-free travel for Turks in Europe, but ties have been strained by Erdoğan’s massive crackdown after a failed coup this month.
The president said the EU had promised $3 billion, but so far only paid a nominal $1 million to $2 million.
“The (European) governments are not honest,” Erdogan told German public television station ARD.
“Three million Syrians, or people from Iraq, are now in Turkey,” he said. “The EU has not kept its promises on the matter.”
Erdoğan estimated the refugees, many of whom have fled the devastating five-year civil war in neighbouring Syria, have cost Turkey $12 billion.
The EU made the deal with Turkey to temper a huge influx of more than a million migrants which overwhelmed the bloc last year.
“I want to say one thing quite clearly: on the refugee issue, we will stand behind our promises,” Erdoğan told ARD.
“What we have promised to date applies. But a question to the Europeans: have you stuck to your promises?” he asked, saying the EU had failed to provide Turkey with sufficient aid. “The West has unfortunately not been sincere thus far.”
“The people want the death penalty reinstated”
Late last month, Brussels said it had opened a new negotiating chapter with Turkey on its long-stalled bid for membership of the bloc.
But that bid has been hit by Erdoğan’s sweeping crackdown in the wake of the failed 15 July military takeover, which has seen more than 13,000 people detained.
The president repeated his call for capital punishment for the plotters, an issue that has perturbed the EU, saying, “The people want the death penalty reinstated.”
“We as a government need to hear what the people say,” he added.
The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004 to satisfy the European Union’s accession criteria. Ankara has not executed a prisoner since 1984.
It is not the first time that president Erdoğan has threatened to reintroduce capital punishment in Turkey. In 2012, he argued that the debate on the death penalty should be reopened to provide a strong response to serious crimes.
Clamp-down on journalists
Istanbul anti-terror prosecutors on Monday issued arrest warrants for 42 journalists as part of the coup investigation, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency, sparking fresh alarm over the scope of the detentions.
Among those targeted was prominent journalist Nazli Ilicak, who was fired from the pro-government Sabah daily in 2013 for criticising ministers caught up in a corruption scandal, it added.
Five people have been detained so far although 11 of the suspects are believed to already be outside the country, the Dogan news agency said.
Other prominent journalists hit with warrants include the commentator Bulent Mumay and the news editor of Fox TV in Turkey, Ercan Gun.
Amnesty International said the overall crackdown was a “brazen purge based on political affiliation” and the latest detentions represented a “draconian clampdown on freedom of expression”.
In total, more than 290 people lost their lives in the attempted coup, including around 100 of those attempting to seize power. More than 1,400 others were injured in violence on Friday evening, according to the latest assessment released by the Turiksh ministry of foreign affairs.
Commenting on Erdoğan’s remarks, European Commission’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said that the EU was respecting its commitments and “suggestions to the contrary are not true”.
“The European Union has mobilised €3 billion to help refugees in Turkey. Out of this, three-quarters of a billion, about €740 million, has already been allocated,” Schinas stressed, adding that another €1.4 billion were about to be approved.
“This shows that we respect our commitments,” the Commission official noted and clarified that this money was not intended for “Turkey and its government”, but for “refugees” and the "host communities".