Minister: Germany free to critique Turkey despite migration deal

Germany's top diplomat rejected accusations that Berlin is showing too much deference to Ankara as it works to implement a controversial EU-Turkey migration deal.

"We continue to take the liberty to discuss deviations in Turkey, to discuss limitations on freedom of expression and freedom of the press," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Sunday's edition of German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.

Turkey has faced sharp criticism in recent months for taking legal action against politically critical journalists and blocking foreign reporters' access to the country.

As part of the migration deal struck by Turkey and the EU in March, Ankara has been preventing human traffickers from using its coastline to transport migrants and refugees to the EU territory of nearby Greek islands.

In return, Turkey has insisted its citizens receive visa-free access to the bloc. The Europeans say Turkey must first meet 72 criteria, including the narrowing of the definition of an act of terrorism, in order to be applicable for the easing of travel laws.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan balked at the demand last week, with Ankara threatening to slacken its controls and allow refugees to again travel in the EU's direction if visa-free access isn't granted.

"Whether we want it or not, Turkey remains the key country for migration to Europe," Steinmeier said. "We need a degree of cooperation if we want to avoid conditions like we had last year."

Some 1.1 million refugees and migrants entered Germany in 2015, many of them Syrians who travelled through Turkey and across the so-called Balkan route.

The migrant influx has triggered a rise in right-wing populism across Europe. In Germany, the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, founded in February 2013, has attracted strong support from those who criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy for migrants fleeing Syria.

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

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