For years, Turkish leaders negotiated visa-free travel for their citizens to the European Union, an agreement that was supposed to finalize at the end of last year. Let alone Turks, ironically, even Turkish ministers are having a hard time traveling to Europe.
The intensifying row between the European Union and Turkey has taken a toll on many aspects of the relationship and is poised to bury the migration and visa-free travel deals.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted on Thursday that his government would not admit migrants traveling to Europe through Turkey, throwing away a deal that was negotiated for years.
The readmission deal is an essential part of any visa agreement that would allow Turks to travel to the 28-member bloc without a visa. It stipulates that any illegal migrant traveling to Europe through Turkey will be repatriated back to Turkey. The EU made the readmission deal an integral part of any visa-free travel negotiations.
Ankara has grown increasingly frustrated over Brussels’ reluctance to grant visa-free travel to Turkish nationals. Last year’s migrant deal with Europe, led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was supposed to accelerate the process to grant Turks a travel right without requiring a visa. But Turkey’s insistence on refusing to amend its vague and broad anti-terrorism law halted the negotiations.
Turkey had frequently hinted that it would scrap off the migrant deal if the EU reneges on its promise for the visa-free travel. Turkish officials even put a deadline — end of 2016 — as the final date for Brussels to honor its end of the bargain.
On Thursday, Mr. Erdogan was curt: What readmission? Forget it.
“They,” Mr. Erdogan said, referring to the EU, “promised to lift visa requirements, but broke their promise.” Mr. Erdogan underscored that it is unfair for Europeans to expect Turkey to keep its end of the bargain while Europeans would not allow Turkish foreign minister to fly or the family minister enter Turkish consulate.
President Erdogan also lashed out at Dutch prime minister who won the elections on Wednesday. “Perhaps you came on top as the first party in elections, but you must know that you lost a friend like Turkey.”
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