23rd Oct 2016

Turkey threatens to scrap refugee deal, again

  • Migrants leaving the Greek island of Lesbos on the day the EU-Turkey refugee deal was implemented, in April. (Photo: Reuters)

Turkey said on Thursday (25 August) that EU accession remained its "strategic aim”, but threatened, once again, to scrap the migrant deal with the EU if it does not quickly get visa liberalisation.

The two-sided message came a day after EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn asked Ankara to respect the rule of law in its post-putsch crackdown if it wanted to join the bloc.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Germany's Europe minister Michael Roth: 'Critical questions are posed in Europe.' (Photo:

"The EU is still a strategic aim for us. There is no change," Turkish foreign affairs minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Ankara in an apparent response.

He added that, for now, EU-Turkey relations were centred on three issues: Turkey’s agreement to take back irregular migrants from Greece; the EU’s agreement to resettle refugees from Turkey; and the visa-free process.

In March, as part of the migration deals, the EU said a visa-free regime would be granted by the end of June if Turkey met 72 criteria.

The deadline was then pushed back to October because the Turkish government has so far refused to change a law on terrorism which, the EU says, contains loose language that is used to silence government-critical media and academics.

'Not fair'

Cavusoglu said on Thursday that "these agreements are connected to each other".

"We all should implement all three of these agreements. It is not right to say: 'Let's implement the deal that favours the EU, but not the one favourable to Turkey'. It is not fair," he said during a press conference with his Polish and Romanian counterparts, Witold Waszczykowski and Lazar Comanescu.

The European Commission is due to publish a report on Turkey’s implementation of the visa liberalisation criteria in September.

If there is no change in the Turkish counter-terrorism legislation, it will be difficult for the EU to grant the visa-free regime.

The same day, also in Ankara, Turkey’s Europe minister and the chief negotiator for his country’s EU accession, Omer Celik, added that Ankara expected a specific date for getting the visa-free perks.

"Unless a date is given for visa-free travel, we will not implement new mechanisms, such as the readmission deal," he said prior to a meeting with Germany’s Europe minister Michael Roth.

Roth, whose country was the main architect of the EU-Turkey migration accords, said that Turks and Europeans "need to carry out this agreement step by step in cooperation”.

European values

In an interview with Turkish daily Hurriyet before the meeting, Roth also said that "conditions to be fulfilled for the visa exemption have been definite for a long time" and that the “last remaining issues must be resolved".

He also said that Germany would not "accept any halt in EU negotiations," as suggested by Austria, because he felt "responsible to those who defend European values in Turkey".

"Critical questions are posed in Europe. That should be understood," he said, referring to concerns about the scale of the post-coup crackdown on judges, civil servants, journalists and academics.

European critics of the crackdown were dismissed by the foreign minister, Cavusoglu, however, who accused some EU member states of having "failed to pass the test when it comes to defending democracy" in their own countries.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity