Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country would step down from its deal with the European Union on the return of migrants if Brussels does not deliver on its promise of visa-free travel for Turkish nationals. The visa-free travel has been the main enticement and motivation for Turkey to sign the deal but the legislation has been delayed on the EU’s side due to disputes over Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation and in light of the recent failed coup.
Mr Cavusoglu said that the deal that was choking off the influx of asylum seekers has only been working thanks to a series of difficult measures undertaken by the Turkish government. “But all that is dependent on the cancellation of the visa requirement for our citizens, which is also an item in the agreement of 18 March,” he said and added that “if visa liberalization does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal on taking back (refugees) and the agreement of 18 March”. He emphasized that Ankara was awaiting a precise date for the visa liberalization. “It could be the beginning or middle of October – but we are waiting for a firm date,” he said.
The European Commission commented that a smooth continuation and full implementation of the mutual deal is the priority. “We expect the same from our Turkish partners. For our part, the Commission has continued to respect and accelerate the implementation of our commitments under the Statement over the past months. With the special measures adopted last week for example, we have already mobilized €2 out of €3 billion from the Facility for Refugees in Turkey,” a Commission’s spokesman said. The EU executive also reaffirmed that the EU continues to provide support for Turkey to accelerate the reforms to fulfill the remaining requirements.