European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he would be held responsible if Ankara fails to meet all the requirements set by the EU
to have the privilege of accessing the bloc’s visa-free travel zone.
Juncker said in a speech in the city of Bruges on Tuesday that visas would not be eased if the administration of President Erdogan fails to meet the criteria.
“Everything the Turkish authorities are doing today leads me to believe that in the end Turkey
does not want to be ready to respect European standards.”
Juncker once again called for Turkey to overhaul its anti-terrorism law in return for the visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to Europe
The EU official said if visas were not eased, President Erdogan would have to explain to Turks why that was so. “We need Turkey … but we cannot give up on our main principles.”
Turkey and the European Union
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.
Syrian children play at a refugee camp in the Kilis district of Gaziantep, southeastern Turkey, October 23, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
However, the European Commission, which serves as the executive arm of the EU, later delayed the implementation of the visa agreement, saying Turkey had done almost nothing to change its controversial anti-terror law.
Ankara has refused to mend the law amid terrorist threats in Turkey.
In recent months, senior EU officials have criticized Turkey for its way of dealing with dissent, saying it runs counter to the EU’s standards on terror fight.
Juncker has said that anti-terror laws cannot be used to imprison intellectuals, scientists and journalists.
Relations between the EU and Turkey have experienced fresh lows in the wake of an abortive coup in Turkey in mid-July. The EU has openly criticized Ankara for a massive crackdown on coup plotters while Turkey says the continental body has failed to properly condemn the coup attempt.
Turkey has threatened to stop enforcing the refugee deal in case the visa agreement is not implemented.