Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"Turkey-EU clash is now just a matter of time"

From al-Monitor:
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warnings that Turkey’s refugee deal with the European Union will collapse if it fails to waive visa restrictions for Turks have become more frequent, almost routine in recent days, signaling a looming and serious crisis in Turkish-EU ties.
The emergency rule Erdogan declared after surviving the failed July 15 coup has meant the suspension of a series of basic rights and freedoms in Turkey, making the planned visa waiver even more difficult and hastening the course toward collision. The row was aggravated by a psychological factor as Erdogan feels anger and mistrust toward EU leaders who, according to him, failed to extend him adequate support after the putsch.
Since the beginning of August, Erdogan has grown markedly tougher on the issue, warning every five days on average that Turkey will stop readmitting refugees if the EU fails to introduce visa-free travel for Turks, with the Turkish press calling his warnings a “showdown.”
In his most recent challenge Aug. 12, Erdogan told Germany’s RTL television, “The visa liberalization and readmission are very important. The process is currently ongoing. Unfortunately, Europe has failed to keep its promise on the issue. We want to take steps simultaneously. If [the visa waiver] happens, fine. If not, I’m sorry but we’ll stop the readmissions.” He had made similar remarks on Aug. 2 and Aug. 8 as well.
Erdogan’s warnings are based on the March 18 deal between Turkey and the EU, under which Ankara pledged to take back all refugees who cross illegally from Turkey to Greece after March 20. Visa-free travel for Turkish nationals was part of the agreement — hence the reciprocity link Erdogan draws between the two. The introduction of the visa waiver was slated for June, but that target was missed, and all signs now indicate it is not forthcoming anytime this year.
Originally, the EU had planned to lift visa requirements for Turks in October 2016 if everything went smoothly under a visa liberalization agreement the two sides signed Dec. 16, 2013, more than two years before the refugee deal. The plan was brought forward to June and incorporated into the refugee deal as a result of personal efforts by Turkey’s then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The EU agreed because the new timing changed nothing about the 72 criteria Turkey was supposed to fulfill for the visa waiver, something that Ankara was perfectly aware of.
So far, Turkey has met 67 of the said criteria. Erdogan is reluctant to fulfill the remaining five, but wants the visa waiver to go ahead all the same — a demand that lies at the core of the dispute....MORE