Europe needs Turkey, Erdogan says, as migration deal hinges on visas

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Europe has a "provocative" attitude towards his country, after his prime minister cautioned that the migration deal depends on visa-free access for Turkish citizens to the bloc.

"More than Turkey needs the European Union, the European Union needs Turkey," Erdogan said in a televised address that was met with applause in the room. He was critical of a recent EU parliament report on Turkey's reforms and rights record.

Turkey has been trying for years to join the EU but the process has largely stalled.

Ankara and the EU reached a deal last month meant to see Turkey clamp down on flows of migrants to the bloc, in exchange for some 6 billion dollars in aid, resettlements of refugees and hopes of getting visa-free access for Turkish citizens to Europe.

Turkey expects the visa-free access deal to be wrapped up by June, after it meets 75 criteria set out by the bloc. Davutoglu on Monday said the deal hinges on this aspect.

"If not, of course, no one can expect that Turkey will fulfil its obligations," he said, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Speaking in Strasbourg, France, to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Davutoglu tried to point to the humanitarian angles of the deal, noting a decline in the number of people trying to cross the Aegean Sea to reach Europe.

On Wednesday, the European Commission will report in detail on progress in implementing the deal with Turkey, commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

According to the UN, Turkey hosts some 2.2 million Syrians and hundreds of thousands of other refugees. The country is a gateway point for migrants trying to reach EU nations. Last year, more than a million people landed on European shores.

In recent weeks, since the migration deal was reached, flows of migrants from Turkey to Greek islands have been drastically reduced, but there were signs that alternative routes were being developed. Thousands arrived in Italy from Libya last week.

The migration deal has been criticized by aid groups and human rights organizations, including concerns over whether Turkey is a safe country for migrants being sent back. Hundreds have been deported from Greece in the first round of returns.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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