European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that a landmark migrants deal between the EU and Turkey would collapse unless Ankara fulfilled its commitments, drawing retaliation from a Turkish minister.
“We fixed criteria for visa liberalization, there are 72 of them and number 65 says that the Turkish government must review the anti-terror law,” Juncker told a conference on Europe at the German foreign ministry.
“We are counting on this, we agreed this with the Turkish government and it can’t be that the exit of the prime minister leads to agreements between the EU and Turkey being ignored,” he said, referring to the departure of Ahmet Davutoglu.
“We put great value in the conditions being met. Otherwise this deal, the agreement between the EU and Turkey, won’t happen. If Mr. Erdogan decides to deny Turks the right to free travel to Europe, then he must explain this to the Turkish people. It will not be my problem, it will be his problem.”
But Ankara’s minister for EU affairs, Volkan Bozkir, stressed that Turkey has fulfilled the required criteria for visa-free travel to Europe.
He said postponing the deal unfairly was unacceptable – comments which could threaten a wider agreement on migrants.
Bozkir said Turkey would not change its counter-terrorism laws – a demand by Brussels which he said had not previously been mentioned.
The main obstacle is Ankara’s refusal to narrow its definition of “terrorist” and “terrorist act” amid concerns that journalists and political dissenters could be targeted.
“We want the process to continue but it would be unacceptable for Turkey if it is postponed in an unfair fashion,” Bozkir told a news conference in Strasbourg broadcast live on Turkish television.
Ankara has repeatedly said that without visa liberalization, there will be no migrant deal.
Like Junker, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier threw “the ball in Turkey’s court.”
Steinmeier acknowledged “we have a strong interest in this agreement on migration not collapsing.”
But said: “If Turkey fulfills its commitments, then I would be for fulfilling our commitments and allowing visa liberalization.”