Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters in Istanbul, May 6, 2016. (Reuters photo)
’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the European Union
’s demand to change the country’s terror laws in return for lifting Schengen visa requirements on Turkish nationals.
“They say ‘I am going to abolish visas and this is the condition.’ I’m sorry, we’re going our way, you go yours. Agree with whoever you can agree,” Erdogan said Friday.
Ankara says the laws are necessary given ongoing fight with Kurdish militants in the country and the threat of Daesh terrorist group in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
“When Turkey is under attack from terrorist organizations and the powers that support them directly, or indirectly, the EU
is telling us to change the law on terrorism,” the president said at the opening of a local government office in the district of Eyup in Istanbul city.
On Wednesday, the EU asked member states to exempt Turkish nationals from visa in return for Turkey curbing refugees’ flow to Europe, but said Turkey still had to change some laws first, including its terrorism laws, to meet EU standards.
Under an EU-Turkey controversial deal sealed in March, Ankara agreed to take back all the asylum seekers and refugees, who had used its territory to illegally reach the EU shores in return for a number of commitments from the EU, including a financial aid, visa liberalization and progress in its EU membership negotiations.
Turkey has been asking the 28-nation bloc to allow its 79 million citizens to enter the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone without a visa, a call that has faced 72 conditions, which are listed in an EU framework titled the Roadmap Towards a Visa Free Regime with Turkey.
Rights groups accuse Turkey of using the broad anti-terrorism laws to silence opposition and arrest critics, including reporters and academics.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Erdogan said the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu won’t directly affect the economy and will leave no gap in the country’s governance.
His remarks come as Davutoglu announced on Thursday that he would not seek a new term as prime minister and head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) amid months-long rumors of tensions between him and Erdogan.