Ankara will present a new document in May regarding its visa-free deal with the EU that, if not accepted, would put the refugee deal with the bloc at a standstill, EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik said on Saturday. In an interview with private broadcaster CNN Turk, Çelik said Turkey was doing its part in the deal with the EU. He said the refugee deal between the two sides would continue if the EU approves Ankara's new offer.
"If they accept our proposal, the [refugee] deal will be completed in a positive way; otherwise it will come to a standstill," he said.
Turkey and the EU signed a refugee deal in March 2016, aimed at discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal included a 6-billion-euro ($6.43 billion) aid package to help Turkey care for the millions of refugees hosted in the country. Despite the promise made, Ankara has said that only about 700 million euros ($750 million) have been delivered. In addition, the promise to accelerate Turkey's EU membership bid and visa-free travel for Turkish nationals in the Schengen area have also not been kept by the EU.
While the plan successfully reduced refugee flows, the European Commission demanded that Ankara fulfill seven outstanding criteria out of the total 72, including "revising legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards." Ankara has repeatedly ruled out any such revision claiming that Turkey has been in a fight against several terror groups simultaneously, including the PKK, Daesh, the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The PKK is also recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the EU.
Çelik said it was Turkey's right to get visa-free travel from the EU since Ankara had done its part in the agreement. He added that Turkey rescued the EU and its political map by taking care of millions of refugees.
Turkey-EU relations have soured in recent years as Ankara accuses the bloc of turning a blind eye to terror groups such as the PKK, the DHKP-C and FETÖ. Meanwhile, Ankara also argues that EU states have been utilizing anti-Turkey rhetoric to gain the upper hand in domestic politics.