Turkey may cancel a migrant readmission agreement with the European Union, and is also re-evaluating a $6 billion refugee deal with the bloc, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview late last night.
Cavusoglu’s remarks came at a time when Turkey-EU tensions are running high after several European countries prevented Turkish politicians, including the foreign minister, from holding rallies intended to drum up support for plans to reform Turkey’s democracy from a parliamentary system to an executive presidency similar to the United States.
While the media has been keen to paint the referendum as a drive to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers, it will in fact limit the terms he and future presidents will be able to serve to two ten-year terms. “Yes” campaigners argue the changes will create greater stability.
Turkey agreed in 2013 to take back migrants who travelled illegally to the EU in return for the promise of visa-free travel. Last year it also agreed to stop illegal migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid for those in its care and accelerated EU membership talks.
So far, the member states of the European Union have largely failed to live up to their end of the bargain.
Cavusoglu said in an interview on Kanal 24:
We may cancel the readmission agreement. The EU has been wasting our time on the visa liberalisation issue. We are not applying the readmission agreement at the moment, and we are evaluating the refugee deal.
The row escalated after the Dutch government banned a rally in Rotterdam at the weekend, claiming fears that tensions in Turkey over the referendum could spill over into its expatriate Turkish community.
Erdogan retaliated by branding the Netherlands “Nazi remnants”. He has also accused Germany of “fascist actions” for cancelling several planned rallies.
Erdogan, who survived a military coup last summer that also sought to assassinate the president, has defended his plans to reform Turkish democratic systems, saying Turkey needs greater stability. But his crackdown on dissenting voices among the judiciary and the media since the failed coup has drawn rebuke from the West, who themselves stayed quiet on the botched coup attempt until it was clear that it had failed.
The EU is, however, caught between their desire to continue pressuring Erdogan while guaranteeing the continuation of a deal to control the flow of refugees and migrants who pass through Turkey to Europe.
Politicians from Greece, an economically and politically embattled EU member state, have warned that if the deal with Ankara falls through, then 200,000 refugees and migrants will come to Greece instead.