Turkey's Kuzu Threatens Refugee Surge If EU Deal Fails

  • European parliament to debate visa-free travel for Turks
  • Turkish president has escalated his criticism of EU deal

A former adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would send refugees to Europe if the European parliament makes a “wrong decision” as it considers proposals to allow Turks visa-free access to the continent.

The threat by Burhan Kuzu, who is also a senior member of Turkey’s ruling AK party, came as doubts grow over an agreement between Turkey and the European Union to stem an unprecedented movement of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

Turkey was offered the visa deal, as well as financial aid and the prospect of a renewed effort toward EU membership, in return for agreeing to take back refugees. Last week, Erdogan rebuffed an EU demand that Turkey narrow its definition of terrorism in return for the lifting of visa restrictions.

Leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel see the agreement with Turkey as a crucial step to ease Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. The European parliament will debate Turkey’s progress in fulfilling requirements for visa liberalization in its plenary session on Wednesday in Strasbourg.

“If they make a wrong decision, we would send refugees,” Kuzu said on Twitter. In a phone interview with Bloomberg, he added: “If Turkey’s doors are opened, Europe would be miserable.”

Arrivals Drop

About one million people, fleeing conflicts such as Syria’s civil war, have crossed from Turkey’s shores to nearby Greek islands since early 2015. 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.

Erdogan ratcheted up his criticism of the EU agreement after Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, hailed as the architect of the accord, lost a power struggle with the president and announced he was stepping down. On Tuesday, Erdogan also rejected EU requests to submit details of housing and education projects for refugees in order for aid to be released.

“Are you kidding us? What projects?” Erdogan said. “There will be no projects, there are 25 camps out there.”

The European Commission said last week that Turkey has made enough progress in meeting 72 “benchmarks” to justify the proposal on EU visa-free status, identifying just five conditions left to fulfill. These relate to the fight against corruption, judicial cooperation with EU nations, deeper ties with European law-enforcement agency Europol, data protection and terrorism legislation.

The visa-free travel proposal must be approved by EU governments, which have signaled a readiness to act on the measure by mid-year, as well as the bloc’s parliament.

Kuzu resigned from his role as a formal adviser to Erdogan to run for office as an AKP lawmaker. He says he still acts as an "honorary adviser," though he’s not on the presidential staff and receives no salary for doing so. A constitutional law professor, he was also previously in charge of the parliamentary commission seeking to rewrite the nation’s constitution.

(Corrects to say that Kuzu is a former adviser to Erdogan in first paragraph. He says he now performs the role in an "honorary" fashion.)
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