President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday (24 May) warned the European Union that lawmakers would block legislation related to the landmark deal to stem the flow of refugees to Europe if Ankara was not granted its key demand of visa-free travel.
“If that is not what will happen […] no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic,” Erdoğan said at the close of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.
There have been growing indications Turks will not be given the visa-free travel by the target of the end of this month and Chancellor Angela Merkel warned after talks with Erdoğan on Monday (23 May) that the target was unlikely to be met.
The agreement – which is already being implemented – saw Turkey pledge to work to stop refugees cross the Aegean to Europe and also readmit refugees who crossed illegally.
EU officials have hailed the success of the deal, but Ankara has grown increasingly uneasy about the bloc’s wariness to grant it the visa-free travel to the passport free Schengen Area it was offered in return.
Erdoğan also complained about the EU’s wariness in handing over to Turkey a promise of €3 billion followed by another 3 billion to help Syrian refugees.
“Turkey is not asking for favours what we want is honesty,” Erdoğan said.
“Turkey is supposed to fulfil criteria? What criteria are these I ask you?” he asked in an angry tirade that overshadowed the end of the summit.
EU leaders are insisting that Turkey abides by 72 conditions before the visa exemption takes place, with a demand to change counter-terror laws proving particularly contentious.
The EU wants Ankara to narrow its definition of terror to stop prosecuting academics and journalists for publishing “terror propaganda”.
Turkey has refused to do so, pointing out it is in the midst of a campaign against Kurdish militants.
Erdoğan complained Latin American countries were not asked such strict conditions as Turkey to be given visa-free travel.
“Turkey on the other hand is a candidate country so why are you asking for these conditions, all these question marks?” he said.