Sunday 11 December 2016

Turkey and EU at loggerheads over their deal on refugees

Claudine Rousseau

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

Turkey struck a deal to host migrants, such as these, who were rescued by the Italian Navy in the Mediterranean. Photo: Marina Militare Italian Navy via AP
Turkey struck a deal to host migrants, such as these, who were rescued by the Italian Navy in the Mediterranean. Photo: Marina Militare Italian Navy via AP

Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has accused the European Union of not upholding its side of an EU-Turkey agreement on migration, saying that promised funds and visa-free travel for Turks in the EU had not been delivered.

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The agreement was instrumental in stemming the flow of people heading from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands.

Under the deal, migrants and refugees arriving on Greek islands from March 20 on faced deportation back to Turkey.

Among the incentives that were offered in return, Turkey would receive funding to help it care for the refugees it is hosting, while its citizens would also be granted visa-free travel in the European Union.

Coup

But plans to loosen visa rules, in particular, have run into trouble. The EU demands that Turkey fulfil a list of criteria first - notably, amending its anti-terrorism laws.

EU countries want to ensure that Turkey cannot use those laws to target academics and journalists.

"We are the ones who are protecting the European Union by sheltering three million Syrians and Iraqis," Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara at an event for foreign investors.

"They still haven't brought about their promises. They promised ¤3bn; this money still hasn't arrived.

"The visa issue still hasn't been brought about. But they expect us to meet (our) obligations. I am sorry but these steps will be taken simultaneously," he said.

"You cannot demand the refugee return agreement without fulfilling your obligations. Sorry, but we are not a country that you can boss about."

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed in an interview with the 'Rheinische Post' that Turkey must fulfil the EU's conditions before the bloc will lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens.

The conditions, he said, "are known to all sides involved".

He continued: "It's in the interest of both the EU and Turkey to find a joint solution. It's not useful to threaten and put up ultimatums for each other."

Mr Erdogan has also slammed Amnesty International for a report alleging that some people detained in connection with Turkey's failed coup attempt had been tortured.

Military

Mr Erdogan insisted that Turkey had a policy of "zero tolerance toward torture" and accused the London-based rights advocacy group of ignoring violence committed by the coup plotters during the July 15 attempt.

During a speech to representatives of foreign companies investing in Turkey, he called on Amnesty to visit sites attacked by the plotters to "see who did what to whom".

Mr Erdogan said that some of those detained may have been beaten during scuffles as pro-government forces quashed the coup attempt.

He added: "If they hadn't, they would have killed our police."

Irish Independent

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