Europski parlament.jpg

The European Parliament will not deliberate on a proposal to grant Turkish citizens visa-free access to the European Union until Ankara changes its terrorism laws, officials said Tuesday.

The move could put at risk an agreement struck between the EU and Turkey on stemming migration flows to Europe. Turkey has repeatedly stressed that lifting EU visa requirements for its citizens is a cornerstone of that deal.

The European Commission made a proposal along those lines last week, but the visa liberalization now has to be approved by the parliament and a majority of EU member states before it can come into effect.

The legislature's political group leaders had already warned in a statement last Wednesday that they would not take up the matter until they receive a written guarantee that all conditions have been met.

Several group leaders on Tuesday tied this specifically to the terrorism reform, one of five benchmarks that Ankara must still meet before being granted visa-free access.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan irritated EU parliamentarians last week by pushing back against any narrowing of the definition of terrorism, which critics say has been used to crack down on political opponents and journalists critical of the government.

The leader of the largest faction in the parliament, the European People's Party (EPP), said that the major political groups are united in blocking any deliberations on the visa liberalization before Turkey implements all of the 72 prerequisite benchmarks.

"We are not demanding more than what was agreed under the pact [with Turkey]," EPP leader Manfred Weber told journalists Tuesday on the margins of the parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg, France.

Erdogan has to make clear that he too "stands by this agreement in its entirety," Weber added.

"Everybody is on the same line - we don't even start to discuss the file of the commission ... if first of all there is not a clear proof of the fact that the 72 conditions are met. That means that also the anti-terrorist legislation is changed in Turkey," added Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Liberal group in the parliament.

"We can't accept threats and blackmail from Erdogan's Turkey in terms of safeguarding human rights," said Gianni Pittella, the leader of the legislature's Socialist faction. "If those benchmarks aren't there, then we can't start to talk."

Green leader Philippe Lamberts said he had his "doubts" about whether the visa liberalization proposal was even still "alive."

The parliament has repeatedly expressed concerns about the state of fundamental rights in Turkey, with the government often accused of infringing democratic freedoms.

EU lawmakers were further outraged by news on Monday that Erdogan is seeking to take legal action against the head of German media giant Axel Springer because he had hailed Jan Boehmermann, a German comedian who recited an explicit poem lampooning Erdogan.

Turkey has demanded that Boehmermann be prosecuted. A lawyer for Erdogan said on Monday in Cologne that the Turkish leader has also requested an injunction against Axel Springer chief executive Mathias Doepfner, who publicly called Boehmermann's poem "priceless" and said he had "laughed out loud."

"It's even forbidden to laugh in the EU, apparently," Verhofstadt said. "I think it's a form of harassment what we are seeing for the moment."

Latest news

Messi's last minute penalty saves Barcelona from shock draw

Barcelona beat Leganes 2-1 with a last minute penalty from Lionel Messi in the Spanish first division on Sunday.

At least 30 injured after explosion in Bogota

A explosion in the Macarena area of Bogota injured at least 30 people on Sunday, many of them police officers who were guarding a bull running through the streets of the Colombian capital.

Vojvodina institutions hold conference on Bunjevci's non-Croat ethnic background

There are around 16,000 members of the Bunjevci community in Vojvodina who deny their Croat ethnic background. They are represented by the Bunjevci National Council which enjoys the support of state authorities, and, since the change of government in Vojvodina, of the provincial authorities as well.

SpaceX rocket blasts off from historic launch pad en route to ISS

A commercial rocket built by SpaceX is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) with a load of research equipment, cargo and supplies, NASA said Sunday.

Defence deals worth 1.2 billion dollars announced at key UAE show

Deals worth nearly 4.4 billion dirhams (1.2 billion dollars) were reached at a major defence show that opened Sunday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an official said.

Thousands protest in Malta against controversial press law reforms

Thousands of people attended a demonstration in Malta on Sunday, answering a call by the main opposition party to protest against what it described as a threat to democracy and freedom of expression.

London's mayor calls for Trump's state visit to be cancelled

US President Donald Trump should be denied a state visit to Britain due to his "cruel and shameful" immigration policies, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Sunday.

'Now more than ever': US scientists gird for confrontation with Trump

Normally any annual gathering of American scientists is relatively non-political. But, with Donald Trump in the White House, things are different at this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Many researchers are worried about their future and are urging colleagues to protest - and remain vigilant.

Int'l conference on post-war monuments in post-communist Europe held in Zagreb

The event was organised by the Zagreb-based association SF:ius in cooperation with the Croatian chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Serbians wouldn't go to war for Kosovo - poll

A majority of citizens in Serbia wouldn't go to war to claim back Kosovo, shows a survey conducted by the Serbian nongovernmental organisation "Belgrade Centre for Security Policy".

Grabar-Kitarovic, Lavrov find solution to air pollution caused by Bosanski Brod oil refinery

Croatia and Russia have found a solution for the problem of air pollution caused by a Russian-owned oil refinery in Bosanski Brod, northern Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been poisoning residents of Slavonski Brod, a town across the Sava River in Croatia, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in Munich on Sunday.

Istria border police discover 20 migrants in van

During routine border control, police in the northern Croatian Adriatic region of Istria on Saturday discovered 20 migrants in a van driven by a Croatian national, the Ministry of the Interior said.