Strasbourg: Turkey must meet all criteria for visa-free travel with Europe, a top European Union official said on Tuesday, after Ankara threatened to walk away from a crucial migration deal with Brussels unless it eased travel rules for Turkish citizens.
The EU depends on Turkey for a deal its backers say has already contributed to stemming the flow of refugees and migrants across the Aegean sea to Greece since it was enacted earlier in April, despite criticism from rights groups. In the deal, Ankara was promised more EU funding for refugees living on its soil, revival of long-stalled EU accession talks and quicker visa liberalisation.
In exchange, it would prevent migrants and refugees from departing from its shores for Europe via illegal routes and take back all who reach the 28-nation bloc.
But Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday Turkey would no longer need to honour the accord if the EU failed to ease visa requirements by June. "As part of the agreement, we are working towards visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens. Turkey must fulfil all remaining conditions," European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Europe's leading human rights organisation.
"Visa liberalisation is a matter of criteria. The criteria will not be watered down in the case of Turkey," he said. Granting visa waiver to Turkey, a country of 75 million, is highly controversial among EU states where some fear it would open the way for more Muslim migration to the bloc already struggling with its worst migration crisis in decades.
More than 1.1 million refugees reached the EU over the last year, mostly via Greece from Turkey. But daily arrivals have fallen sharply since the deal between Ankara and Brussels....