EU Deal Near Collapse, Says World’s Largest Refugee Host

According to Turkey’s minister in charge of EU integration, the agreement between Turkey and the European Union, to help stem the largest flow of refugees since World War II is inching closer to collapse.

Omer Celik said in an interview on Tuesday in Ankara that Omer Celik said in an interview on Tuesday in Ankara by Bottom of Form

hosting about 3 million refugees – the most of any nation — and halting their migration to Europe.

He said that his country’s commitment to seeking EU membership wasn’t unconditional and Turkey is under no obligation to continue implementing it, he added describing the deal as one-sided.

“We won’t abandon these people to their deaths, but an agreement has two sides and if one side doesn’t abide by its obligations, neither will the other,” Celik said. “If the refugee agreement collapses, what we foresee is clear: we won’t cooperate with any mechanisms acting on behalf of the EU.”

As politicians lash out ahead of a series of votes that could define relations for decades, the prospects of Turkey joining the union are dissipating. While in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been appealing to nationalists ahead of an April referendum on endowing his office with full executive authority, in Europe, populists are campaigning on anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiment.

In a pledge to “re-energize” Turkey’s stalled membership talks and to secure visa-free travel for Turks in the EU’s 26-nation Schengen area, Turkey agreed to help stem the flow of refugees from Syria in exchange for $3 billion in aid, under deal struck a year ago, and the recent developments has put more pressure on that refugee deal.

In Europe upstart politicians including Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France are campaigning on anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment and hence Turkey’s pledges have become politically toxic in Europe. Celik said that the EU should be taking a stronger, united stand against racism inside the bloc.

Celik said that belief that while the Turkey’s EU membership will happen has collapsed, there is support in Turkey for the membership still remains high. He said that the future of the relationship as well as any legislation to reintroduce the death penalty would be ultimately decided by the Turkish voters.

“This issue depends on whether relations with the EU are maintained or not,” he said. “It is up to the Turkish people whether to keep the EU process or halt it.”

While chants for reinstatement of capital punishment are now frequently heard at Erdogan’s rallies, Turkey abolished it in 2002 as a prerequisite for EU membership. Erdogan said he’d approve legislation to introduce the death penalty if it’s passed by parliament, in a speech in Istanbul earlier this month.

According to Celik, Turkey has yet to receive a commitment from Europe’s leaders on a date, even though Turkey has proposed a summit to provide some clarity on the state of relations between the bloc and its biggest Muslim-majority neighbour. He said that  Turkey-EU ties need a new blueprint.

“We want full membership in the EU as long as it adheres to its values,” Celik said. “We won’t be a part of a Europe based on double standards and Islamophobia.”

(Adapted from Bloomberg)

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