Photographer: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

EU Pushes Back on Turkish Threat to Scrap Refugee Agreement

  • Erdogan aide demands October deadline for visa-free travel
  • European Commission says visa solution depends on benchmarks

The European Union rejected Turkey’s warning that it may scrap a refugee accord unless the EU allows visa-free travel for Turkish citizens, saying the bloc’s conditions aren’t negotiable.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that his government would stop adhering to the agreement reached in March if the EU didn’t produce visa liberalization by October. A spokeswoman for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said progress will depend on conforming with EU standards.

“President Juncker has been very clear on numerous occasions that if Turkey wants visa liberalization, the benchmarks must be met,” EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters in Brussels on Monday. Germany can “well understand” the stance taken by the commission, the EU’s executive arm, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said in Berlin.

The EU-Turkish tussle over visas in exchange for stemming the flow of refugees into Europe has hinged on an EU demand that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan soften Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws. Prospects for that have been increasingly fraught as Erdogan uses special powers to crack down on dissent after a failed military coup last month.

The EU-Turkey accord, spearheaded by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is central to European efforts to control of the influx of migrants amid the region’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. Turkey agreed to halt the flood of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece in exchange for 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in financing and the prospect of visa-free travel in Europe for its citizens, initially envisioned for the end of June.

“It can be the beginning, or middle of October, but we expect a fixed date,” Cavusoglu told FAZ in an interview.

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