Erdogan Snubs EU on Terror Laws for Visa-Free Travel for Turks

  • Turkish President tells Europe: ``we are going our way''
  • Erdogan's refusal of EU demand overshadows deal on refugees

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday rebuffed a European Union demand to narrow its definition of terrorism in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, criticizing Europe for not supporting Turkey’s efforts to protect its populace.

Erdogan’s refusal comes a day after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, hailed as the architect of the migration deal with the EU, announced his departure from office as a result of a power-struggle between the two leaders. The refugee pact stemmed the flow of migrants entering the EU through Greece.

In return for help with the migration crisis, the European bloc provided Turkey with 6 billion euros ($6.9 billion) in refugee aid, offered Turks the prospect of visa-free travel in the EU and held out the promise of reinvigorating talks on stalled Turkish membership in the union. EU leaders said that to start those negotiations Turkey should overhaul its terrorism legislation to make it compatible with EU law. The request comes at a time when Turkey is “under direct and indirect attack from terrorist organizations and powers who support them from all fronts,” Erdogan said.

“I beg your pardon, we are going our way and you go yours,” Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul, adding that Europe was tolerating the Kurdish PKK group, which has fought for autonomy in Turkey. “Go make a deal with whoever you can.”

Emboldened Separatists

Erdogan’s remarks increased doubts over whether the EU agreement can now go ahead. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told reporters in Rome on Thursday that the accord must be implemented.

Migrant sea crossings from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands was a route used since early 2015 by about 1 million people from war-torn nations such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Arrivals in Greece fell to 2,987 last month from 26,971 in March and 57,066 in February, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

“We’ve been saying for a long time that such a change in legislation to combat terrorism is not possible,” Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkir said Thursday, citing the backlash over the deaths of Turkish security personnel killed in clashes with the PKK.

The threat of emboldened separatist aims has hit home in Turkey as it watches Kurds in neighboring Syria and Iraq gain power and territory. Its decades-old confrontation with the PKK reignited in July after a three-year lull, when peace talks between the government and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan collapsed.

The surge in violence followed an election victory by the pro-Kurdish HDP party to win parliamentary representation for the first time in June, briefly depriving the AK Party co-founded by Erdogan of its single-party majority. The government has since ruled out a return to talks and vowed to crush the PKK. It says the military has killed more than 5,000 militants in the renewed fighting, while 400 security personnel and some 200 civilians have also died.

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