Erdogan: No migrant deal without visa-free EU access for Turks

Turkey's parliament will reject a deal made with the EU to take back migrants if Turkish citizens are not granted visa-free access to Europe, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

"If the talks are fruitful, good. If not, then a step will have to be taken at the Turkish parliament, and the law regarding the implementation of the readmission agreement will not be ratified," Erdogan said in Istanbul.

Ankara has agreed to take back migrants who used its territory as a springboard for reaching Europe via people-smuggling sea routes in exchange for the visa deal.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the travel privileges will not be implemented by July 1, because Turkey has yet to fulfill all 72 criteria set by the bloc as a prerequisite for a lift on visa restrictions.

The EU is pushing for Turkey to narrow its legal definition of terrorism, amid accusations that the law has been used to justify a crackdown on political opponents or journalists critical of the government. Erdogan has said such a change is not forthcoming.

Turkey and the EU are currently in negotiations about the country joining the bloc.

Observers say it is unlikely Turkey will be able to join the EU in the near future, in part because of its standards of democracy and rule of law. There are members of the EU who oppose Turkey's membership.

A deal reached in March between Turkey and the EU saw Ankara almost entirely shut down human smuggling operations that were used for years by migrants.

In exchange, Turkey was promised the chance to get visa-free access and is meant to receive some 3 billion dollars this year in aid for Syrian refugees. There are disagreements about how the aid is to be sent and Turkey says it has yet to receive the cash.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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