The EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement was signed in Ankara on Dec. 16, 2013, and has survived many difficulties until today. Although Turkey has fulfilled 67 out of the 72 criteria stipulated by the EU, negotiations have come to a deadlock as the EU requires Turkey amend its anti-terrorism laws.
Turkey has more terrorist attacks than any EU country. We have experienced five suicide bombings by the PKK, DAESH and the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) People's Protection Units (YPG) over the past year. A total of 450 security officers and nearly 100 civilians have lost their lives to PKK terrorism in the same period. As Turkey is struggling with such heavy losses, it shoulders the economic and social burden of 3 million Syrian refugees within its borders. Despite this, the EU expects Turkey to act as if it is still under the same reconciliation process conditions as in December 2013, to overlook terrorist attacks that are escalating with every passing day and to tone down its anti-terrorism laws.
It appears the EU wants Turkey to forget that France declared martial law for six months, even interrogated a 9 year old for not standing in homage after the two consecutive attacks in Paris and that French courts punished people such as comedian Dieudonne Mbala Mbala. It wants Turkey to overlook measures undertaken in the EU such as the deployment of soldiers in the streets of Brussels and Paris, the segregation of Muslims and the organization of extreme fascism under the name of freedom of expression.
Things have come to a stalemate at this point. Turkey cannot tone down its anti-terrorism laws just because the EU wants it to or in order to ensure visa-free travel for Turkish nationals to the Schengen zone. Neither President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan nor any other politician could bear the political consequences of such a move. Turkish citizens attach much more priority to the resolve in counterterrorism than visa-free travel to the EU's Schengen zone.
If the EU wants to maintain the readmission agreement with Turkey, it has to develop some understanding of the intricacy of the present conditions in Turkey and revise its prerequisites accordingly. Otherwise Turkey has already dropped the agreement.
Turkish citizens are sure that it is very unfair of the EU to stipulate 72 preconditions for visa-free travel when they are not obliged to fulfill any of the conditions to travel to others, from the United Arab Emirates to Paraguay. Frankly speaking, even the progress of the process in such a cool and composed way, despite European Parliament President Martin Schulz's impertinent remarks to Erdoğan, is an achievement on its own.
Moreover, this procrastination, as well as the EU's unsympathetic and patronizing attitude, insults Turkey's moral standing in the refugee problem. Turkey does not accept refugees for the purpose of obtaining the visa exemption from the EU. It is rather irritating to prevent Turkish nationals' visa-free travel by flaunting the misleading idea that the country accepts refugees for its own interests.
If the EU fails to revise its prerequisites, it would only be right for Turkey to terminate the agreement in June.
About the author
Hilal Kaplan is a journalist and columnist. Kaplan is also board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey.