European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has again insisted that Turkey must meet all the requirements set by the EU to have the privilege of accessing the EU’s visa-free travel zone.
Juncker said Sunday that the agreement on relaxing travel rules for Turks as part of a deal between the EU and Turkey on refugees can be implemented if Turkey meets the conditions, which include a reform in the country's anti-terror laws.
“The question of visa-free travel, which is directly connected to the agreement on handling refugees, can be implemented on October 1 only if all the conditions are met,” Juncker said.
Turkey and the EU reached a mega deal in March to stem the unprecedented flow of refugees into Europe. Under the agreement, Ankara agreed to receive all refugees landing on the coasts of Greece in return for concessions, including billions of dollars in cash funding, accelerated talks on Turkey’s accession to the EU, and visa-free travel for Turks to the EU’s Schengen Area.
However, the European commission, which serves as the executive arm of the EU, later delayed the implementation of the visa agreement, saying Turkey has done almost nothing to change its controversial anti-terror law. Ankara has refused to mend the laws, saying it is paramount in dealing with the surging terror threats in the country. Turkey has even threatened to stop enforcing the refugee deal in case the visa agreement is not implemented in October.
Juncker, who was addressing an annual EU conference in Austria, also criticized Turkey for its way of dealing with the dissent, saying it runs counter to the EU’s standards on terror fight.
“Anti-terror laws cannot be used to imprison intellectuals, scientists and journalists. That is not the fight against terror that we mean,” he said.
Relations between the EU and Turkey have experienced fresh lows in the wake of an abortive coup attempt in Turkey in mid-July. The EU has openly criticized Ankara for the massive crackdown on coup plotters while Turkey says the continental body has failed to properly condemn the coup attempt.