Ankara will send migrants back to the EU if the European Parliament won’t grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, warned Burhan Kuzu, a high-ranking deputy for Turkey’s ruling AKP party and former adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kuzu made several statements on Twitter in anticipation of Wednesday’s session of European parliament, at which visa exemption for Turkish nationals in the Schengen zone – as part of a migrant deal between Brussels and Ankara – was to be discussed.
“The European Parliament will discuss the report that will open up visa-free travel in Europe to Turkish citizens. If it makes the wrong decision, we will send the migrants back!” he wrote.
He also told Bloomberg: “If Turkey’s doors are opened, Europe would be miserable.”
“Europe is on the edge of an important decision: It will decide on Turkey’s visa-free travel rights today. If a positive decision comes out, this is also a benefit for Europe,” the MP wrote in a separate tweet.
Kuzu, a member of the Central Decision and Executive Board of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party), was trending on Turkish Twitter due to his comments.
It’s not the first time the deputy has threatened to flood Europe with over 2 million migrants from North Africa and Middle East, stranded in Turkish refugee camps.
“Finally the EU understood Turkey’s stake and loosened its purse strings. What did we say? ‘We will open the borders and set Syrian migrants on you’,” he wrote back in December 2015.
Meanwhile, the European parliament had “quietly” suspended discussions of visa-free travel for Turkey Monday, reported the website EUobserver.
EU parliament chief Martin Schulz put the debate on hold because Turkey had not yet met all EU visa-free criteria, said Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP.
“Schulz said we will only start processing the file when the 72 criteria have been met,” she added.
According to two deputies, who opted to stay anonymous, the move is aimed at putting pressure on the European Commission so that it would take a firmer stance on Turkey fulfilling its part of the deal.
“The ball is back with the European commission,” one of the MEPs told EUobersver, while the other stressed that the suspension will “make the parliament more important.”
On Wednesday, Turkey’s minister for EU affairs Volkan Bozkir met with EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, in Strasbourg.
The Turkish minister will also hold talks with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, on Friday in Brussels, according to European Commission’s press service. However, no press events were planned following both meetings.
On May 4, the European Commission proposed to the European Parliament and the EU Council to lift visa restrictions for Turkish citizens, if Ankara fulfils five conditions by the end of June.
They included measures to prevent corruption, holding talks on an operational agreement with Europol, judicial cooperation with all EU member states, bringing data protection rules in line with EU standards, and the revision of legislation on the fight against terrorism.
Bozkir told Turkish NTV broadcaster Wednesday that “it is not possible for us to accept any changes to the counter-terrorism law” as demanded by the EU.
With Europe hit by the biggest migrant crisis in decades, the EU and Ankara signed the migrant deal back in March. According to the agreement, Turkey would take back refugees seeking asylum in the EU in exchange for a multi-billion euro aid package and some political concessions, including the visa-free regime.