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

More from Europe

World's longest tunnel railway tunnel opens to public in Switzerland

The first scheduled train to pass through the world's longest railway tunnel arrived in the Swiss city of Lugano...

Paolo Gentiloni named as new Italian prime minister

Outgoing foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni has been asked to form a new government by President Sergio Mattarella,...

Italy's foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni set to become next premier

Italy's outgoing foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni got a presidential summons on Sunday, strongly suggesting that he...

Social democrats favoured as Romanians head to the polls

Romanians are set to head to the polls Sunday, with the latest surveys favouring the Social Democrats (PSD) ahead of...

Mattarella looking to usher in functioning Italian government quickly

Following crisis talks in Rome on Saturday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said he will be taking steps soon to...