ANKARA (Reuters) - The European Union should implement visa-free travel for Turks by the end of the year and stop insisting Turkey change its anti-terrorism laws or Ankara may cancel its side of a deal to readmit illegal migrants, Turkey’s EU minister told Reuters.
Turkey agreed in March to stop illegal migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid for those in its care, the promise of visa-free travel for its citizens to much of the EU, and accelerated membership talks.
But there has been deadlock over the plan to grant Turks visa-free access to Europe, initially planned by October. Brussels first wants Turkey to change its anti-terrorism law, which it deems too broad for European standards.
“Forcing this despite the situation is putting a roadblock in front of the visa liberalisation, and therefore we will assume they aren’t keeping the promises they made,” Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said in an interview in Ankara.
“In that case we won’t carry out the readmission deal, and we will cancel it if necessary,” he said.
Celik said that Turkey had been keeping its promises, with illegal migrant arrivals from Turkish shores to Greece dropping to 20-30 people a day from a peak of 7,000 in 2015.
He also said mass suspensions in the wake of a failed coup attempt on July 15 had caused no institutional weakness in terms of Turkey’s relations with the EU.
(This version of the story clarifies reference in lead and para 5 to 2013 agreement)
Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by David Dolan