EU leader: Turkish president stalling visa-free travel must ‘answer for this’

EU-leader-Turkish-president-stalling-visa-free-travel-must-answer-for-this.   BRUSSELS,  The head of the European Union said Thursday that Turkey needs to change what he believes are overbearing terror laws, or else a deal for visa-free travel and financial assistance aimed at easing the migrant crisis will collapse.

A migrant with his dog waits for a permission to move toward the train station at a refugee camp near Gevgelija, Macedonia, last September. Tensions were running high at the border between Greece and Macedonia as hundreds of thousands of refugees try to reach the heart of Europe from war-ravaged nations in the Middle East via Turkey. File Photo by Borce Popovski/UPI | License Photo

















Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently rejected calls to change the nation’s terror laws, which critics believe are used to silence domestic criticism of the government. He has also said the migrant crisis will get worse if the EU doesn’t follow through with the deal — which would allow Turks to travel without visas to EU nations.

But Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the parameters of the deal, which Turkey hasn’t met, are clear.

 “We have conducted negotiations with Turkey … we have set conditions regarding visa liberalization,” he said.

The deal, reached in March, agreed to allow one Syrian refugee into the EU bloc for every one sent back to Turkey who left illegally. In addition, the EU would pay nearly $7 billion to the Turkish government to accommodate refugees living there.

However, that agreement requires Turkey to reform counterterrorism laws that are viewed by many as too invasive — something the EU says the government in Ankara has not done.

Erdogan has accused the EU of “hypocrisy” for not following through on the travel deal.

“If Mr. Erdogan is pursuing a strategy of denying Turks the right to free travel to Europe then he has to answer for this to the Turkish people. This is not my problem, this will be his problem,” Juncker added Thursday.

 “We have to recognize that we need such an agreement … that it’s worth all the difficulties involved to negotiate it,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has taken in most of the migrants, said Thursday. “More than 350 refugees have lost their life since the beginning of this year until March 20 on the way from Turkey to Greece across [the Aegean].”