Turkish European Union Affairs Minister Omer Celik says time has come for the Ankara government to reassess its controversial refugee deal with the 28-nation bloc, which would grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel through most of Europe.
“If you look carefully, the European Union always talks about co-operating in the fight against terrorism and managing the migrant crisis. They cover up the other issues. When we look at the obligations the EU should have fulfilled I don’t see any reason why Turkey should maintain the migrant deal,” Celik told Reuters on Wednesday.
He added, “At this point we understand that it has become clear EU will not take an objective and fair stance on visa liberalization. This is clear. We spoke many times. It is not fair and objective when they tighten their terror laws and ask us to loosen up ours. We cannot loosen up our terror laws under these circumstances.”
The Turkish minister further asserted that his country “has done everything on its part regarding the migrant deal but the EU didn't keep any of its promises.”
“In my opinion it has come to light that the European Union doesn’t keep its promises. This is my personal opinion. Turkey has no liability to carry out this deal. Therefore, Turkey may reassess the migrant deal whenever and how it wants. I believe it is time to reassess this deal,” Celik said.
The remarks came a day after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated that the migration agreement struck last year between Turkey and the EU could be abolished in case the European Union does not grant a visa exemption to Turkish nationals.
“We see that the European Union has been stalling us. But our patience is not unlimited. Our citizens also have expectations. If visa liberation does not come, we will take steps regarding the migration deal,” Cavusoglu said.
In March 2016, Turkey and the EU sealed a controversial deal intended to stem the flow of refugees from Syria and other troubled countries to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara.
Under the agreement, the bloc will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward it with money, visa liberalization and progress in its EU membership negotiations.
Critics, however, have accused Turkey of blackmailing Europe over the refugee crisis.
Visa-free travel for 79 million Turkish nationals is a contested issue as some EU states fear it would open doors to more migration to the bloc, which is already struggling with the biggest influx of refugees since World War II.
Ankara has on occasion threatened to walk away from the deal should it not get the visa liberalization.
Turkey-EU diplomatic feud
Celik’s remarks come amid rising tensions between Ankara and the European Union, which broke out after a number of EU states, particularly Germany and the Netherlands, barred Turkish ministers from campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote for a presidential system of government at home in a mid-April referendum.
Turkey has announced a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands over its refusal to allow two Turkish ministers to campaign there, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing Amsterdam of acting like “the Nazi remnants.”
Erdogan has also slammed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for siding with the Netherlands, accusing Berlin, like Amsterdam, of Nazi practices.
With the escalation of the back-and-forth exchanges, Chancellor Merkel's chief of staff Peter Altmaier said Wednesday that Berlin reserves the right to prevent the entry of Turkish officials hoping to campaign in Germany as a "last resort."
Also on Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk censured Turkey’s Nazi comparisons with the Netherlands and Germany as unreasonable.
“If anyone sees fascism in Rotterdam, they are completely detached from reality. We all show solidarity with the Netherlands,” Tusk told the European Parliament in the French city of Strasbourg.
Amsterdam had over the weekend barred Cavusolgu’s plane from landing and prevented Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from holding a rally in Rotterdam.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker also said he was “scandalized” by the Turkish government’s Nazi remarks.