Migrant crisis: Turkey could block EU deal over visas

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference at the end of the World Humanitarian Summit at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul on 24 May Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Erdogan has warned that the migrant deal may collapse if visa demands are not met

Turkey's parliament will block a deal with the EU on migrants if Turks do not gain visa-free access to the bloc, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says.

Access to the EU's passport-free Schengen area was a key demand by Turkey in an agreement struck in March.

But the EU says Turkey still needs to meet certain conditions, including changes to its terror laws, before access can be granted.

The agreement is aimed at halting the mass movement of people into Europe.

Mr Erdogan has also said funds promised by the EU have not yet been released.

What is the Schengen agreement?

Turks look to EU to scrap visas

Under the agreement, Turkey has to meet 72 conditions to earn visa-free access to the Schengen area by the end of June.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met Mr Erdogan on Monday, said there might not be enough time for it to be completed.

Speaking at the close of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Mr Erdogan warned: "If that is not going to happen... no decision and no law in the framework of the readmission agreement [on migrants] will come out of the parliament of the Turkish Republic."

One of the sticking points relates to Turkey's broad anti-terrorism laws. Changes to the legislation were among the conditions set by the EU under the agreement.

The EU and rights groups accuse Ankara of using the laws to intimidate journalists and stifle dissent. The government denies it, saying it needs the laws to fight militants. Mr Erdogan has accused the EU of "hypocrisy" over the demand.

The deal was largely negotiated by former Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davotuglu, who quit over a rift with Mr Erdogan.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Aim of the deal is to ease Europe's migrant crisis, the worst since the Second World War

There are fears the whole migrant deal will collapse if the visa dispute is not resolved, as the Turkish president has repeatedly warned.

'Broken promises'

Mr Erdogan also said the bloc was not delivering on its promise to deliver aid for Syrian refugees.

The EU had pledged up to 6bn euros ($6.7bn; £4.6bn) in funds as part of the deal.

"When you look at what has been done so far, we see that they are not keeping the promises they made," he said.

Under the EU-Turkey agreement, migrants who have arrived illegally in Greece since 20 March are to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or if their claim is rejected.

For each Syrian migrant returned to Turkey, the EU is to take in another Syrian who has made a legitimate request.

Turkey in numbers



  • 11.1% Unemployment

  • 2.75m Syrian refugees registered with UN

  • 151 out of 180 countries on World Press Freedom Index