European Parliament lawmakers accused the EU Wednesday (9 March) of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the “keys to the gates of Europe” through a migration crisis deal with Ankara.
At a summit on Monday (7 March) European Union leaders agreed to work for an agreement with Turkey that would include a ‘one-for-one’ swap of Syrian refugees and a doubling of aid for Ankara to six billion euros.
But European Parliament Liberal group leader and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt told MEPs in Strasbourg, France that the deal was “hugely problematic”.
“It is a deal with Turkey in which we outsource our problems,” Verhofstadt said.
“A deal in which we are giving in fact the entrance keys, the keys to the gates of Europe, in the hands of Turkey, of the successors of the Ottoman Empire, to Erdogan, I should even say maybe to Sultan Erdogan.
“He shall now decide on the entrance to the European Union.”
Manfred Weber, the leader of the biggest group in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party, said that the EU should not give a “blank cheque” to Turkey.
He also condemned the “unacceptable” crackdown by Turkish authorities on the country’s leading anti-Erdogan newspaper.
Socialist leader Gianni Pittella meanwhile said that talks on migration “must not be mixed” with negotiations on Turkey’s long-stalled EU membership process, which EU leaders have agreed to speed up under the deal.
The debate became so bad-tempered that an MEP from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party was thrown out of the chamber for comparing Turkish people to dogs.
“As the Ottoman intellectuals wrote: the Turk is a barbarian in spirit, a blasphemer, obtuse and dirty. The Turk is like a dog: he looks fierce but when he has to confront an enemy, he flees,” said the MEP, Eleftherios Synadinos.
European Parliament president Martin Schulz said he was expelling the Greek politician for “crossing red lines to try and make racism acceptable.”
EU leaders will try to finalise the deal at a summit in Brussels on March 17-18.