Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday threatened to throw open Turkey’s borders and allow tens of thousands of migrants to flood into European countries after the EU voted to back a freeze in membership talks with Ankara.
“Listen to me. If you go any further, then the frontiers will be opened, bear that in mind,” Erdogan told the EU in a speech in Istanbul.
“We are the ones who feed 3-3.5 million refugees in this country. You have betrayed your promises,” he said.
His furious reaction came after a non-binding resolution was approved on Thursday by the EU Parliament demanding that the bloc freeze membership negotiations with Turkey over the government’s crackdown following the failed coup against Erdogan in July.
On March 18, Ankara and Brussels forged a deal for Turkey to halt the flow of migrants to Europe — an accord that has largely been successful in reducing numbers crossing the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece.
Turkey agreed to step up maritime and land border controls in exchange for incentives on its long-stalled membership bid, including visa-free travel for its citizens and an acceleration of accession talks.
However with an October target passing and no apparent progress on the visa issue and accession talks stalled, Ankara has stepped up accusations that Brussels was not keeping its side of the bargain.
The latest setback was Thursday’s vote.
Erdogan said that the EU had cried out for help in 2015, as tens of thousands of migrants massed at the border crossing with EU member Bulgaria.
“You began to ask us ‘what will we do if Turkey opens its borders’?” he asked.
Erdogan’s threat drew a reaction from the German foreign ministry, which said the EU and Turkey have a common interest to stick to the deal that has reduced the influx of migrants into the bloc.
“If one looks at the facts, then it is the case that both sides are sticking to the agreement and we hope that remains the case as it is in the interests of both sides,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli said during a regular government news conference.
Around one million migrants from poverty-stricken countries and refugees from wars crossed into Europe in 2015, raising fears of a social crisis in the EU and strengthening the hand of right-wing nationalist parties.