24 May 2016: Turkey threatens to block EU migration deal without visa-free travel
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned the European Union that Turkey would block laws related to the landmark deal to stem the flow of migrants to Europe if Ankara was not granted its key demand of visa-free travel within the bloc.
At the close of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey’s president said: “If that is not what will happen … no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement will come out of the parliament of the Turkish republic.”
Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel warned after talks with Erdoğan on Monday that the target of the end of this month to agree visa-free travel for Turks was unlikely to be met.
The agreement, which is already being implemented, saw Turkey pledge to work to stop migrants cross the Aegean to Europe and also readmit migrants who crossed illegally.
EU officials have hailed the success of the deal, but Ankara has grown increasingly uneasy about the bloc’s wariness to grant it the visa-free travel to the passport-free Schengen area it was offered in return.
Erdoğan also complained about the EU’s wariness in handing over to Turkey a promise of €3bn followed by another €3bn to help Syrian refugees.
“Turkey is not asking for favours – what we want is honesty,” Erdoğan said in an angry tirade that overshadowed the end of the summit.
“Turkey is supposed to fulfil criteria? What criteria are these I ask you?”
EU leaders are insisting that Turkey abides by 72 conditions before the visa exemption takes place, with a demand to change counter-terror laws proving particularly contentious.
The EU wants Ankara to narrow its definition of terror to stop prosecuting academics and journalists for publishing “terror propaganda”.
Turkey has refused to do so, pointing out it is in the midst of a campaign against Kurdish militants.
Erdoğan complained Latin American countries were not asked such strict conditions as Turkey to be given visa-free travel.
“Turkey, on the other hand, is a candidate countries so why are you asking for these conditions, all these question marks?” he said.
The EU Refugee & Migrant Crisis
Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, recently agreed a EU deal with Turkey on Syrian migrants. This entailed Turkey closing it’s doors to an ever increasing flood of migrants and also accepting a return to Turkey of any such refugees or migrants deemed to be unacceptable to the EU. A forceful President Erdoğan (realising he held all the important negotiating cards) demanded (and got) visa-free travel for Turks, loadsa financial support, (measured in billions) accelerated EU accession talks and for Brussels to ignore human rights abuses in return for his cooperation. David Cameron signed up to the agreement.
The deal apparently applies within the “Schengen Area” of the EU only. This is the area including 26 European countries that abolished passport and any other type of border controls at their mutual borders. The area functions therefore as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. The UK and Ireland are not signatories to the agreement.
But without controls Turkey will probably, at some future date, flood the EU with millions of it’s own disaffected citizens as it rapidly abandons, (in favour of an “Islamist” agenda) any remaining pretence of maintaining its “Secular” status, and other safeguards, written into the nations constitution by the founding father of modern Turkey “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk”. More info here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_the_Schengen_
14 March 2016: Turkey: a disintegrating ally and imaginary friend
The knee-jerk response of Turkey’s leaders to a suicide bombing in Ankara that killed 37 people and injured more than 100 suggests that Turkey’s Islamic strongman president, Erdoğan and his neo-Islamist party are fresh out of ideas about how to halt what looks increasingly like Turkey’s slide into chaos. Once-dependable Turkey seems in danger of implosion. Under Erdoğan, Turkey is the west’s disintegrating ally and Europe’s imaginary friend.
Erdoğan claimed the bombing provided further evidence of Turkey’s life-or-death national struggle against shadowy forces bent on victimising and destroying Turkey. But this is the message he uses to win elections, rally nationalists and de-legitimise opponents: “Our state will never give up using its right of self-defence in the face of all kinds of terror threats. All of our security forces, with its soldiers, police and village guards, have been conducting a determined struggle against terror organisations at the cost of their lives,” Erdoğan said, ignoring the fact that Sunday’s victims were civilians. Officials, without evidence pinned the blame, predictably, on the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK).
Following his usual script, Erdoğan authorised retaliatory air-strikes on PKK targets in northern Iraq, another example of how the Turkish leader lashes out under pressure. It is a dangerous reflex. Last year, Erdoğan ordered the shooting down of a Russian warplane that briefly entered Turkish airspace from Syria. Bilateral relations have been dreadful ever since.
Security forces also intensified operations in ethnic Kurdish areas of southern and south-eastern Turkey that have killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands since last year. Curfews and martial law, backed up by tanks, were imposed on Monday on Yüksekova and Şırnak, near the Iraq border, and Nusaybin, close to Syria.
Turkey’s internal Kurdish problem is only one of the challenges that Erdoğan’s confrontational approach appears to exacerbate. Turkey is at war, on and off, with Syrian Kurdish militias fighting Isis in northern Syria. Ankara fears they may try to create a separate political entity linked to the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq and even Turkey itself.
Signs of societal disintegration may also be seen in Erdoğan’s manipulation of the judiciary, repeated threats to prosecute pro-Kurdish MPs and politicians, curbs on media freedom and independent journalism, unchecked corruption, and his attempt to enact a new constitution giving him Vladimir Putin-style presidential powers.
The main opposition Republican People’s party leader said Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) would stop at nothing to stay in power. “Turkey is step by step sliding towards an authoritarian regime … The AKP is currently in a position that it may do everything not to leave power, including [committing] political murder,” he said.
Erdoğan’s for-me-or-against-me stance increasingly pits Turkey against long time allies. The migrant deal, which the UN and aid agencies say is probably illegal, is just the latest flashpoint. Last autumn, when visiting Brussels, he angrily threatened to flood Europe with refugees unless the EU bowed to his cash demands. He often mocks and berates the EU, once calling it an elitist, Islamophobic Christian club. He flatly rejects European criticism of increasingly worrying media controls and human rights abuses.
Erdoğan has also fallen foul of the Obama administration over how best to fight Isis and his cross-border shelling of Syrian Kurdish militias, who Washington regards as useful allies against the jihadis and the Damascus regime.
In a recent interview, Barack Obama described Erdoğan as a failure and an authoritarian. When Turkey shot down the Russian warplane, the US was almost as alarmed as Moscow, especially when Erdoğan called for Nato backup.
2 May 2016: President Erdoğan crack down on any opposition to Islamic rule
A brawl erupted in Turkey’s parliament over proposed changes to the constitution. Lawmakers at a constitutional commission meeting were discussing a government-backed proposal to remove parliamentary immunity from MPs when the fight broke out.
The legislation is seen by some as yet another sign of growing authoritarianism in Turkey
In recent years, Erdogan’s government has cracked down hard on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, arresting journalists on charges of terrorism and espionage for criticizing the government, issuing media blackouts in the wake of terror attacks, and frequently shutting down social media platforms like Twitter during times of political crisis, raising concerns over growing authoritarianism in the country.
“In the past year and a half, government prosecutors have opened almost 2,000 cases against Turks for insulting the Turkish president,” notes Uri Friedman in the Atlantic. “One Turkish man lodged a legal complaint against his wife for cursing Erdogan in their own home. Another went on trial for comparing Erdogan to Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.” Some analysts see the government’s latest moves against the pro-Kurdish opposition politicians as further evidence of a return to the authoritarian days of Turkey’s past.
2 May 2016: A brawl erupted in Turkey’s parliament over proposed changes to the constitution