Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday (7 May) accused European nations of hypocrisy in pressing his country on terror laws while “sidelining democracy” at home in their own fight against terrorism.
“Those who criticise us are reduced to sidelining democracy and freedoms when bombs started to explode on their soil,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the southeastern city of Malatya.
Last week, the European Commission said Turkey had to meet five objectives, including changes to its anti-terror law, to gain visa-free travel to its passport-free area under a deal to curb the influx of migrants to the European Union.
“I am going to talk plainly: on the question of visas, let those who call on Turkey to modify its anti-terrorism law start by removing tents set up by the terrorists at the doors of the European Parliament,” Erdoğan said.
It was an apparent reference to a tent set up by Kurdish activists near the European Council in Brussels where a Turkey-EU summit was to be held in March.
Saturday’s swipe followed on the heels of another combative speech in which Erdoğan warned Turkey would not change its panoply of anti-terror laws.
“The EU says: you will change the anti-terror law for visas,” Erdoğan said in a televised speech in Istanbul on Friday. “Pardon me, but we are going our way and you can go yours.”
The present anti-terrorism laws allow Turkey to press terrorism charges against critical journalists and academics. Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, and Erdem Gül, 49, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, stand accused of trying to topple the government with the publication in May 2015 of video purporting to show Turkey’s state intelligence agency helping to truck weapons to Syria in 2014.
Erdoğan’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, who announced Thursday (5 May) he was quitting, had championed the 18 March visa deal with the EU.
The EU has a list of 72 criteria for pushing through visa-free travel for Turkish nationals under the landmark, but controversial, agreement.
Five of these “benchmarks” remain outstanding, according to the executive’s assessment. The 28 EU member states and the European Parliament must also approve the visa scheme, which is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Erdoğan has previously warned Brussels that Ankara would stop fulfilling its side of the migrant deal — which has seen the numbers making dangerous crossings across the Aegean Sea fall sharply — if the EU’s promises are not kept.