Turkey tells EU to honour its word on visa liberalisation

The European Union proposed in May the granting of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens visiting the bloc from late June but is yet to fulfil its part of the deal.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu addresses the media in Ankara, Turkey, July 29, 2016.

The European Union should grant Turkish nationals visa-free travel in October or else Turkey will put aside a deal to stem the flow of refugees to the bloc, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told a German newspaper.

Çavuşlu said that the European Union was "belittling" Ankara, and reiterated his government's demand for visa-free travel in exchange for stemming the refugee flow, Çavuşlu told Bild newspaper.

"The Turkish people are traumatised by the failed putsch of July 15," Çavuşlu said, referring to last month's effort to topple the democractically elected Turkish government by a junta connected to US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. 

"Rather than helping Turkey, (European nations) are belittling us."

European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn, right, and Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, 2nd right, address the media with Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik, centre, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, 2nd left and Fina

Asked whether hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey would head to Europe if the EU did not grant Turks visa freedom from October, he said: "I don't want to talk about the worst case scenario - talks with the EU are continuing but it's clear that we either apply all treaties at the same time or we put them all aside."

Turkey has rejected EU criticism that the purges might violate rights norms Ankara must meet under the agreement in return for visa-free travel and accelerated negotiations for bloc membership.

Çavuşlu said that Turkey has made intense efforts, "like few other nations, to fulfil the conditions of accession to the EU".

“In return, Turkey has received only threats, insults and a total blockage from the EU,” he said.

"I ask myself, what crime have we committed? Why this hostility?"

"It is clear: either we apply all the agreements together, or we set them all aside," Çavuşlu said in response to a question on whether Turkey would allow hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees to try to reach Greece from its shores.

On May 4, 2016 the European Union proposed granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel to the bloc from late June.

Visa-free access to the EU - the main reward for Ankara's collaboration in choking off an influx of migrants into Europe - has been subject to delays due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation and Ankara's crackdown against the coup plotters.

TRTWorld and agencies