Turkey’s Foreign Minister has announced that his government will no longer allow the landmark migrant deal it agreed with the European Union to function due to the continued lack of visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
“We will not wait at the EU’s door,” Mevlut Çavuşoğlu told Turkish news channel TGRT Haber on Monday. “The readmission agreement and visa-free deal will be put into effect at the same time.”
Turkey and the regional bloc signed the agreement in 2016 as a solution for the rapid influx of refugees into Europe, most of whom passed through Turkey. As part of the deal, the EU promised to provide a total of €6 billion in financial aid to the country, and guaranteed that Turkish citizens would be granted visa-free travel to EU member states.
In return for the aid and ease on travel restrictions, Turkey agreed to halt the influx of refugees and migrants into Europe by taking stricter measures against human traffickers, discouraging the dangerous methods of migration through the Aegean Sea, and improving the conditions in which the roughly 3 billion refugees within the country can live and prosper. Despite such efforts made on the Turkish side and the successful control of the flow of refugees, the EU has until now failed to deliver on its commitments under the deal.
Çavuşoğlu also addressed recent speculation on Turkey’s alleged shift in policies, insisting that the country will not leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) but that it will take new and independent strides in its foreign policy. “Waiting at the EU’s door for 50 more years is not possible for Turkey,” he said. “We will announce our new initiatives on foreign policy in the beginning of August.”
Today, the EU responded to Çavuşoğlu’s comments and the announcement that the refugee deal is no longer functional. The deputy chief spokesperson for the European Commission, Natasha Bertaud, claimed during a briefing in Brussels that the two sides are still committed to implementing the agreement, and that the visa-free travel will be granted to Turkey once the country continues to fulfil its part of the deal.
Throughout the past five decades, Turkey has had a long and complex relationship with the EU, having applied to join the bloc in 1963, since when it has been subject to condition after condition, with new restrictions raised every time the issue came to a head.
Relations between the two have also become particularly strained following the recent ongoing dispute over Turkey’s drilling for natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Cyprus. The EU imposed sanctions on Turkey for this last week.