Turkish pushback on terrorism puts EU migration deal on shaky ground

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pushed back Friday against EU demands for changes to the country's terrorism laws

Addressing the EU directly, Erdogan said, "We're going our way, you go your way," inspiring cheers from the audience in Istanbul, who began chanting, "Stand up, don't bow down."

Turkey has repeatedly stressed that granting its citizens visa-free access to the European Union is the cornerstone of a deal struck with Brussels to help stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

To achieve this benefit, however, Ankara must fulfil five outstanding visa liberalization benchmarks, including a requirement to narrow the definition of terrorism.

Erdogan's comments come a day after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, one of the main architects of the migration deal struck in March, resigned amid growing public disagreement with the president.

His departure has triggered concerns across Europe that Turkey will not hold up its end of the bargain.

Last year, more than 1 million migrants reached Europe, with many of them travelling via Turkey to the Greek islands. Under the migration deal, Ankara has agreed to take back people who embark on this route.

"The EU, and Germany, will continue to fulfil all agreed-upon commitments, and we expect the same from the Turkish side," German government spokesman Georg Streiter said Friday.

"The pact isn't between the EU and Mr Davutoglu, it's between the EU and Turkey," Streiter added, echoing reactions out of Brussels.

The EU is pushing for Turkey to narrow its legal definition of terrorism, amid accusations that the law has been used to justify a crackdown on political opponents or journalists critical of the government.

In March, following an attack in Ankara, Erdogan appeared instead to move in the opposite direction.

"There is absolutely no difference between terrorists who carry weapons and bombs, and those who offer their position, their pen or their title in aiding terrorists in reaching their goals," he said at the time.

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

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