The European Commission has warned that a deal under negotiation to grant Turkish nationals visa-free access to Europe
may not materialize if Ankara fails to reform its anti-terror laws.
Head of the commission Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday that the EU
demanded changes to Ankara’s anti terrorism laws, along with 72 other requirements, when the two sides sealed a broader deal in March.
“We have conducted negotiations with Turkey
… We consider that it is important for these conditions to be fulfilled. Otherwise, this deal [over visa-free travel] between the EU and Turkey
will not happen,” said Juncker.
Under the broader EU-Turkey deal, Ankara agreed to take back all the asylum seekers and refugees who had used the Aegean Sea to illegally reach Greece.
In return, Turkey was promised financial aid, the acceleration of visa liberalization talks and progress in its EU membership negotiations.
In order for the March deal to be activated, the two sides are now involved to finalize the issue of visa-free travel.
The negotiations have been faltering as Turkey refuses to make changes to its anti-terror laws as required by the EU, putting the entire EU-Turkey engagement and the deal over the refugees at risk.
President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz (R) shakes hands with Turkey’s Minister of EU Affairs Volkan Bozkir in Strasbourg, France, May 11, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir have ruled out any changes to the country’s anti-terror laws, which the EU says are too sweepingly broad.
Bozkir recently accused the EU of not conceding enough in the talks but Juncker shifted the blame back on Turkey.
“If Mr. Erdogan is pursuing a strategy of denying Turks the right to free travel to Europe, then he has to answer for this to the Turkish people. This is not my problem, this will be his problem,” Juncker said.
The EU considers the finalization of the deal with Turkey an increasingly unlikely outcome.
Such a view was revealed in a recent report by German Das Bild paper, which cited an anonymous EU minister as saying that the bloc is already considering a contingency plan — without Turkey.
The “plan B” would include arrangements for Greece, instead of Turkey, to keep refugees and asylum-seekers on its islands in return for EU commitments similar to those it is making with Ankara.
Europe’s concerns have risen after last week’s resignation of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who had been one of the most important supporters of the refugee deal.
Europe is facing an unprecedented influx of refugees, who are fleeing conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East
, particularly Syria.