The European Union should implement visa-free travel for Turks by the end of the year and stop insisting Turkey change its anti-terrorism laws or Ankara may cancel its side of a deal to readmit illegal migrants, Turkey’s EU minister told Reuters.
Turkey agreed in March to stop illegal migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid for those in its care, the promise of visa-free travel for its citizens to much of the EU, and accelerated membership talks.
But there has been deadlock over the plan to grant Turks visa-free access to Europe, initially planned by October.
Brussels first wants Turkey to change its anti-terrorism law, which it deems too broad for European standards.
“Forcing this despite the situation is putting a roadblock in front of the visa liberalisation, and therefore we will assume they aren’t keeping the promises they made,” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said in an interview in Ankara.
“In that case we won’t carry out the readmission deal, and we will cancel it if necessary,” he said.
Celik said that Turkey had been keeping its promises, with illegal migrant arrivals from Turkish shores to Greece dropping to 20-30 people a day from a peak of 7,000 in 2015.
Cyprus may prove to be an additional obstacle as it rejects the European Commission`s interpretation on whether Turkey has fulfilled 65 of the 72 prior actions for visa liberalisation.
Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told the EU General Affairs Council that Cyprus considered criteria 4, 22, 44, and 49, related to justice and home affairs, had not been fulfilled by Turkey.
He also made it clear to his colleagues that Cyprus disagreed with the European Commission`s view that Ankara partly fulfilled criteria 47 and 68, and stressed that “it is not possible for these criteria to be considered fulfilled, while Turkey does not cooperate with Cyprus in these areas.”
“It is obvious”, Kasoulides added, “that the Commission`s interpretation is contrary to the principle enshrined in the Roadmap, which concerns the indiscriminate fulfilment of all criteria vis-a-vis all EU member states”.
“We will continue to closely monitor developments in relation to the implementation of the Roadmap and reserve the right to act accordingly,” he said.