Turkey’s EU minister today said he was not hopeful about the prospect of realising a deal with the European Union on granting Turks visa-free access to most of the bloc.
“At this stage I would not say we are very hopeful,” EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir told Turkish reporters in televised comments in Brussels following talks with EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
The promise of visa-free travel is a key pillar of the landmark March accord for Turkey to stem the flow of migrants to the EU, but the whole deal appears now at risk of unravelling.
Ankara is obliged to meet the remaining five out of 72 conditions for its citizens to enjoy visa-free travel to Europe, including key sticking points on anti-corruption, data protection and counter-terror laws.
But with the military battling rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Kurdish-majority southeast, Turkey says it cannot change its counter-terror laws.
The EU wants Ankara to sharply narrow its definition of “terror” to prevent recent cases like the prosecution of academics and journalists for publishing “terror propaganda”.
“Every country has things on which it can give ground and things on which it can’t. The European Commission should help Turkey,” said Bozkir.
“We think the European Commission should understand quite how critical the current situation is,” he added.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday accused the European Union of “hypocrisy” for telling Ankara to adapt its counter-terror laws in return for visa-free travel while it was in the throes of fighting PKK rebels.
“Since when are you running this country? Who has given you the authority?” Erdogan asked, in one of his most stinging attacks in recent weeks on the EU.