Czech leader accuses Turkey of ‘blackmailing’ EU over refugees

Tukish Prime Minister Ahmet Dvutoglu (L) and European Council President Donald Tusk (C) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (R) give a media conference at an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels, EU and Turkey have agreed on a plan to tackle migration flows. (Photo by Jonathan Raa / Pacific Press)

PRAGUE (AFP) – The Czech Republic on Tuesday alleged Turkey was “blackmailing” the EU with demands for extra cash to curb the flow of refugees and migrants to member state Greece.

Under a deal clinched in November, the EU has already pledged three billion euros ($3.3 billion) to aid refugees on Turkish territory in return for Ankara’s cooperation in tackling the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

But European Parliament head Martin Schulz said last week that Ankara wanted an extra three billion euros.

“The EU’s original proposal to Turkey was for three billion euros, now Turkey is asking six billion euros and there is talk… of about up to 20 billion euros,” Czech President Milos Zeman said following talks with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in Prague.

“Impolite people like myself call that blackmail,” the 71-year-old veteran leftwinger told reporters.

Known for anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, the outspoken Zeman dubbed the surge in refugee numbers “an organised invasion” of Europe and called for the deportation of economic migrants and suspected terrorists.

He also argued it was “practically impossible” to integrate Muslims into European society.

A million migrants arrived in Europe last year — most from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Some 135,000 people have arrived in Greece from Turkey this year.