Turkey warns EU it will abandon refugee deal if no visa-free travel

Turkey has threatened to quit a deal with the European Union (EU) to stem the flow of refugees if its citizens are not granted visa-free travel to the 28-nation bloc.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a group of journalists at the southern holiday resort of Antalya on Monday that it was “impossible” for Ankara to meet Brussels’ demands in exchange for visa-free travel to the Schengen zone.

“We have told them ‘we are not threatening you’ but there’s a reality. We have signed two deals with you (the EU) and both are interlinked,” the minister said, stressing, “This is not a threat but what is required from an agreement.”

Cavusoglu also went on to say that Turkey will not change its anti-terror laws as one of the 72 conditions demanded by the EU before the visa exemption is approved.

“Which definition are you talking about? Each country in Europe has different terror definitions,” the minister said, noting, “In such a circumstance, it is impossible to change terror laws.”

Building on a recent threat by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the top Turkish diplomat said Ankara would use “administrative” measures to block the deal if needed.

On May 24, Erdogan said, “If that (the visa exemption) 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.”

Based on the deal, which was struck in March, boat refugees arriving on European soil via the Aegean Sea may be sent back to Turkey. For each refugee returned, the EU will take one Syrian refugee currently living in Turkey.

A mother and her children walk past tents during a police operation to clear a makeshift camp for refugees at the border between Greece and Macedonia near the village of Idomeni, northern Greece, on May 25, 2016. (AFP photo)

In return, the EU has made several commitments to Ankara, including financial aid, visa-free travel to the bloc for Turks, and progress in negotiations on its membership to the bloc.

Ankara has insisted that the visa-free travel be made possible by the end of June, but EU authorities have recently given indications to the contrary.

Granting visa waiver to Turkey, a country of 75 million, is highly controversial among EU states where some fear it would open the way for more refugees to the bloc.

The EU leaders are insisting that Turkey meet 72 conditions before the visa exemption is approved, including an end to prosecuting academics and journalists.

The bloc has conditioned meeting its side of the bargain on a whole host of measures by Ankara, including its modifying the country’s anti-terror laws.

Last year, over a million refugees entered Europe through Turkey and Greece and then made their way through the Balkans to Germany and other northern member states of the bloc.

The influx of refugees has crippled the bloc, particularly the countries on its external borders.

By Press TV