VIENNA – Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has said the EU must not allow itself to be bullied by Turkey after the country threatened to end the migrant deal unless its citizens are soon granted visa-free travel
The controversial deal made between Turkey and the European Union earlier this year involves Turkey accepting ‘irregular’ migrants deported from Greece and preventing further people from travelling to Europe.
For every deported asylum seeker sent back, the EU agreed to accept a Syrian refugee in return. They also promised to speed up the payment of €3 billion in aid to Turkey and, if the country meets certain requirements, to allow visa-free travel in Europe for Turkish citizens for six months.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said yesterday that they expect the visa-free entry to start in October.
“If there is no visa liberalisation, we will be forced to distance ourselves from the migrant readmission agreement,” he said.
It follows similar complaints from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan last week that the EU has not held up it’s side of the deal, only sending around €1-2 billion so far.
The European Union agreed in March to offer Turkey visa free access by July 1st, but Turkey did not meet the necessary requirements.
Speaking to Österreich newspaper, Kern said: “We should in no way allow ourselves be intimidated.”
Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz also said that the the EU “should not give in a millimetre” to Turkey’s demands.
Germany’s Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has also criticised the threats from Turkey, arguing it has not met the conditions required for visa-free travel and the warning that the EU must not be blackmailed into accepting it.
The criticism of Turkey follows a severe crackdown on tens of thousands of officials and journalists in the country deemed to be enemies of Erdogan.
The crackdown, which has left thousands incarcerated, is a response to a failed coup to try and topple the President.
Erdogan, who supported the re-introduction of the death penalty for those involved in the coup, has come under heavy criticism from EU Member States for his threats and the severity of his reaction.
Kern also says he has received death threats for speaking out against extreme Turkish nationalism.
Writing on Facebook a few days ago, the Chancellor criticised the Turkish President for encouraging supportive protests from diaspora in Europe, which in Vienna turned aggressive after demonstrators attacked a Kurdish restaurant.
Kern said that although the freedom to protest is protected in Austria, unlike in Turkey, the country will come down with full force on those who incite violence.
“Likewise, the abuse of religious motives to justify an authoritarian policy is not only not normal, but absolutely unacceptable in our country,” he wrote.