EU-Turkey pact ‘must be re­spected’: Juncker

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The EU-Turkey deal that has sub­stan­tially re­duced the flow of mi­grants to Europe “must be re­spected and will be”, said Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief Jean-Claude Juncker in an in­ter­view pub­lished yes­ter­day. Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan threat­ened Fri­day to walk away from the agree­ment, speak­ing a day af­ter the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment an­gered Ankara by back­ing a freeze of its EU ac­ces­sion talks.

“We made an agree­ment, it must be re­spected and it will be,” Juncker told Bel­gium’s La Li­bre Bel­gique news­pa­per. He pointed to the pe­riod from 2003-2014 while Er­do­gan was prime min­is­ter, when Turkey “made a lot of progress in terms of the qual­ity of its democ­racy”. But in the past two years, the coun­try has “dis­tanced it­self from Euro­pean prin­ci­ples and val­ues,” Juncker said.

“I be­lieve that Er­do­gan and his govern­ment are in the process of ‘pre-blam­ing’ Europe for the fail­ure of its ac­ces­sion ne­go­ti­a­tions,” he added. He noted that the cur­rent im­passe be­tween the two sides stems in par­tic­u­lar from the fact that Turkey has re­fused to launch a re­form of its anti-ter­ror leg­is­la­tion, a con­di­tion for mem­ber­ship laid down by the EU. “In­stead of putting this fail­ure on the Euro­pean Union and Com­mis­sion, Mr Er­do­gan would do well to start by ask­ing him­self if he re­spon­si­ble for Turks not be­ing able to freely move on Euro­pean ter­ri­tory,” Juncker said. On March 18, Ankara and Brus­sels forged a deal for Turkey to halt the flow of mi­grants to Europe-an ac­cord that has largely been suc­cess­ful in re­duc­ing num­bers cross­ing the Aegean Sea be­tween Turkey and Greece.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM), just over 171,000 have crossed to Greece so far this year, much lower than the com­pa­ra­ble fig­ure for 2015 of al­most 740,000.

Hun­dreds of mi­grants drowned while try­ing to cross the Aegean in 2015 on un­sea­wor­thy boats, in­clud­ing three-year-old Syr­ian Ay­lan Kurdi. The im­ages of his life­less body washed up on a Turk­ish beach spurred the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity into ac­tion. Juncker pointed out that the lead­ers of the 28 EU na­tions have the fi­nal say on Turkey’s bid to join the bloc and not the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. Still, he said Thurs­day’s vote was a “warn­ing sign that Turkey should not un­der­es­ti­mate”. — AFP

PARIS: Peo­ple hold a ban­ner read­ing “Bor­ders di­vide” and call­ing for “free­dom of move­ment and res­i­dence” dur­ing a demon­stra­tion in sup­port of mi­grants and refugees in Paris yes­ter­day. — AFP

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