European Parliament chief: Visa deal with Turkey on hold till summer

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said Wednesday he saw no chance for an agreement on visa-free access to the European Union for Turkish citizens by July.

The visas are part of a wider EU-Turkey deal on stemming migration flows to the bloc. Ankara has warned that its implementation of measures to control refugee flows hinges on access to Europe for its citizens.

A key advisor to Erdogan, Burhan Kuzu, this week cautioned that if Europe's parliament rejects the visa-free access, then "we will send the refugees" to the bloc.

In an interview with German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, Schulz said the European Parliament would "absolutely" not begin consultations when Ankara has not fulfilled the conditions for visa-free access.

He had therefore not passed the corresponding bill on to the responsible justice committee, as Turkey has not fulfilled five of 72 conditions, Schulz said.

"It is not only a question of quantity, but quality, and as far as quality goes, two of the most essential prerequisites - data protection and anti-terrorism laws - have apparently not only not been fulfilled, but not even approached," Schulz said.

The European Parliament officials have stressed that visa-free access would not be deliberated until Ankara changed its terrorism laws, officials said Tuesday.

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.

Schulz called on Erdogan to relent on the issue, saying that for the amendment to pass in October, Ankara needed to begin consultations immediately.

Volkan Bozkir, Turkey's minister for EU affairs, told local broadcaster NTV that Turkey's laws already comply with European standards and no changes would be made. He also insisted that the law was not relevant to the visa deal.

The row over visa-free access could put at risk the agreement struck between the EU and Turkey on stemming migration flows to Europe, as the bloc deals with the largest number of people on the move in decades.

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