ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the European Union Tuesday of not upholding its side of an EU-Turkey agreement on migration, saying that promised funds and visa-free travel for Turks in the EU had not been delivered.
The agreement was instrumental in stemming the flow of people heading from Turkey to the nearby Greek islands. Under the deal, migrants and refugees arriving on Greek islands from March 20 on faced deportation back to Turkey. Among incentives offered in return, Turkey would receive funding to help it care for refugees it is hosting, while its citizens would also be granted visa-free travel in the EU.
But plans to loosen visa rules in particular have run into trouble. The EU demands that Turkey fulfill a list of criteria first — notably, amending its anti-terrorism laws. EU countries want to ensure Turkey cannot use those laws to target academics and journalists.
"We are the ones who are protecting the European Union by sheltering 3 million Syrians and Iraqis," Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara at an event for foreign investors.
"They still haven't brought about their promises. They promised 3 billion euros ($3.35 billion), this money still hasn't arrived. The visa issue still hasn't been brought about. But they expect us to meet (our) obligations. I am sorry but these steps will be taken simultaneously," he said. "You cannot demand the refugee return agreement without fulfilling your obligations. Sorry, but we are not a country that you can boss about."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed in an interview with the daily Rheinische Post that Turkey must fulfill the EU's conditions before the bloc will lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens.
The conditions, he said, "are known to all sides involved."
"It's in the interest of both the EU and Turkey to find a joint solution," Steinmeier said. "It's not useful to threaten and put up ultimatums for each other."