Turkey warns EU to stick by visa waiver promise

Turkey warns EU to stick by visa waiver promise
The Turkish prime minister on Monday urged the EU to stick to a promise made as part of a European-Turkish migrant deal to waive visa requirements for Turks.
2 min read
19 April, 2016
Turkey has taken steps to stem the flow of refugees [Getty]
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday warned the European Union to stick by a promise of visa free travel for Turks by June this year, saying otherwise Ankara would not abide by its commitments under a key migrant deal.

Turkey earlier this year agreed a series of measures to help the EU stem the flow of migrants from Syria and other troubled countries to European shores, in exchange for the promise of visa free travel and a boost for Ankara's longstanding bid to join the bloc.

"This is a mutual commitment. If the EU cannot take the necessary steps required of it then of course it cannot be expected of Turkey to take these steps," Davutoglu told reporters at Ankara airport before heading to Strasbourg.

"I maintain my belief that, God willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then of course no-one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments," he added.

"Turkey is a serious interlocutor. It does what is has promised and will allow no concessions on what it has been promised," he added.

The March 18 accord sets out measures for reducing Europe's worst migration crisis since World War II, including stepped-up checks by Turkey and the shipping back to Turkish territory of refugees who land on the Greek islands.

In return, Turkey is slated to receive benefits including visa-free travel for its citizens to Europe, promised "at the latest" by June 2016.

But the prospect of visa-free travel for Turks has been hugely controversial in some EU countries, where leaders have been accused of bending over to fulfil Turkey's demands.

Turkey is also to receive a total of six billion euros in financial aid up to the end of 2018 for the 2.7 million Syrian refugees it is hosting.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had on April 7 already warned the EU there were "precise conditions" in the agreement. But Davutoglu's comments represent the most explicit warning by Ankara on the issue yet.

The premier is due to host German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of the European Council Donald Tusk in the Turkish city of Gaziantep on April 23 to discuss the migrant deal.

Last month's EU-Turkey deal came under immense criticism by the UN and rights groups for forcibly deporting refugees back to Syria. 

Amnesty International says its research on the Turkish-Syrian border suggests that around 100 Syrians, who often have not registered in Turkey, are expelled each day.

Only those arriving after 20 March, when the agreement came into effect, will face deportation.