ISTANBUL — Turkey, in an escalating diplomatic crisis with Europe, threatened on Wednesday to unilaterally scrap a March 2016 deal that has substantially reduced the flow of migrants and refugees to the EU.
"We can stop it (the deal) unilaterally. We have not yet informed our (EU) counterparts, all of this is in our hands," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told 24 TV in an interview.
"From now on, we can say ’we will not apply it and it will be over’," he added.
He lambasted the EU for failing to allow Turks visa-free travel in return for the deal, an incentive that had been promised to Turkey if it fulfilled its side of the bargain.
"Visa freedom is a must," said Cavusoglu.
Under the deal, Turkey undertook to tighten its maritime borders and also break up the people-smuggling networks that had helped migrants to make the risky crossing across the Aegean to Greece – the starting point of the trek to northern Europe.
The deal has been praised for preventing a repeat of the surge of migrants seen into Europe in 2015 that fanned the popularity of the far-right.
Cavusoglu said Turkey was no longer implementing a key part of the deal, whereby it took back migrants who landed on the Greek islands as a deterrent.
"Right now we are not implementing the readmission agreement as there is no visa-free travel," said Cavusoglu.
Turkey and the European Union have become embroiled in an explosive crisis after key EU members The Netherlands and Germany blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to back constitutional changes expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers in an April 16 referendum.
Erdogan has repeatedly accused the two countries of behaving like "Nazis", comments that have left The Hague and Berlin aghast and prompted warnings from Brussels for Ankara to show moderation.
"We can say ’we will not implement the migrant deal’. We don’t have to get permission from anyone," said Cavusoglu. — AFP