Free-travel, terror law disputes threaten EU-Turkey deal | News | DW | 11.05.2016
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Free-travel, terror law disputes threaten EU-Turkey deal

Free-travel and legal disputes have called an EU-Turkey refugee deal into question for politicians on both sides of the table. If the agreement fails, officials in Ankara threaten to reopen the migrant gates to Europe.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere voiced skepticism about the EU-Turkey deal after Turkish President Erdogan rejected EU terms and conditions, German newspaper "Bild" reported on Wednesday.

The mass-circulation paper cited sources at a meeting of the interior minister and members of the German parliament from his conservative Christian faction (CDU/CSU).

The push to give Turkey visa-free travel is part of an accord that ensures Ankara's cooperation in stemming the wave of refugees heading to Europe. The agreement, however, requires Turkey to reform a number of issues before obtaining free travel. Most notably, Ankara was requested to loosen a controversial anti-terror law that has been used to target journalists and academics.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has refused the change the legislation.

According to the paper's report, de Maiziere said Erdogan was apparently "not ready to meet the criteria."

"If they are not met, there would be no visa-free travel," he added.

Erdogan advisor raises the stakes

Burhan Kuzu, one of Erdogan's advisors, posted a tweet saying that the EU officials were facing an important decision on visa-free travel that would affect the entire refugee agreement.

"If they make a wrong decision, we will send off the refugees," he wrote.

Turkish EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir told broadcaster NTV the law the EU wants changed already meets the 28-member bloc's standards and is not a part of the visa-free travel agreement.

Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, however, said the refugee accord between Turkey and Brussels is not in danger and that the Turkish parliament has the majority needed to push through required reforms.

"The parliament will decide on it, not the president," he told "Bild." "It would be a major contradiction if the deputies are pushing for EU membership and at the same time refuse to vote for European standards."

Schulz to find new deadline

The EU Parliament has also threatened to block the initiative if the dispute persists.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said it was "absolutely out of the question" for the deputies to start discussing the issue before Ankara meets the terms.

Speaking to German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday, Schulz added that he sees no chance of resolving the issue before the July deadline.

"My task is to check if the if the legal requirements for a parliamentary discussion are fulfilled," he said. "My result is: they are not fulfilled."

Schulz is set to meet with Ankara representatives later in the day and discuss a new deadline, possibly in October.

dj/sms (dpa, KNA, AFP, Reuters, EPD)