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Turkey pushes hard on EU visa liberalization

August 15, 2016

Turkey has repeated an ultimatum to the European Union: visa-free travel or else it will cease cooperation on migrants. The latest salvo was delivered by the foreign minister to Germany's mass-market "Bild" newspaper.

Symbolbild Aufhebung Visumspflicht für türkische Staatsbürger
Image: Getty Images/C. McGrath

The EU should grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel by October or the multibillion-euro migrant deal is off, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told "Bild" in an interview published Monday.

"It can't be that we implement everything that is good for the EU but that Turkey gets nothing in return," Cavusoglu told the newspaper.

Turkey has so far lived up to its side of the deal with Brussels to stop illegal migration to Europe via its territory, in return for billions in financial aid, the promise of visa-free travel to much of the bloc for its citizens and accelerated talks on membership.

But visa-free access has been subject to delays due to a dispute over Turkish anti-terrorism legislation, which critics say is overly broad, allowing innocents to be swept up and freedom of expressions stifled.

European Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said he does not see the EU granting Turks visa-free travel this year due to Ankara's crackdown after the failed July 15 military coup attempt. Thousands of civil servants, police officers and soldiers have been purged.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also said he would support the restoration of capital punishment if parliament voted for it, a move which Germany has stated plainly would sink any hopes of EU membership.

Asked whether hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey would be allowed to enter the EU if Brussels did not meet Ankara's deadline, the Turkish foreign minister responded: "I don't want to talk about the worst-case scenario - talks with the EU are continuing, but it's clear that we either apply all treaties at the same time or we put them all aside."

Austrian kerfuffle over news ticker

The renewed ultimatum comes after Turkey summoned Austria's charge d'affaires in Ankara on the weekend over what it said was an "indecent report" about Turkey on a news ticker at Vienna airport.

"Turkey allows sex with children under the age of 15," read a headline on an electronic news ticker at the airport, images circulated on social media showed.

The report referred to a controversial Turkish Constitutional Court ruling last month in favor of stripping the penal code that identifies all sexual contact with children under 15 as "sexual abuse" following an application made by a local court.

Rights groups and children's advocates inside Turkey have condemned the ruling. The Turkish parliament has six months to change the law.

jar/se (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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