The day after the European Union (EU) Parliament’s non-binding vote to freeze Turkey’s accession to the bloc, the nation’s Islamist president has threatened to flood the continent with migrants.
“If you go any further, these border gates will be opened,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in Istanbul. “Neither me nor my people will be affected by these dry threats. It wouldn’t matter if all of you approved the [European Parliament] vote.”
“We are the ones who feed 3-3.5 million refugees in this country,” Mr. Erdoğan said in his speech Friday. “You have betrayed your promises”, he added, according to Deutsche Welle.
In March of this year, Brussels agreed to provide up to €6 billion in aid to Turkey, fast track its accession into the EU, and bring in thousands of Syrians from camps in Turkey if Mr. Erdoğan stopped boats crossing to Greece and accepted the return of some “irregular migrants”.
However, since an attempted coup in Turkey in July, the EU has become increasingly nervous about the authoritarian direction of Mr. Erdoğan’s government, which has detained or dismissed more than 125,000 people – including soldiers, academics, judges, journalists, and pro-Kurdish leaders – and closed numerous newspapers.
In a resolution on Thursday, the EU Parliament voted 479 to 37 to urge the European Commission to freeze Turkey’s bid to eventually accede to the 28-nation bloc.
If national governments and the commission follow the parliament, the terms of the migrant deal will be seen to have been broken by Ankara.
On Sunday, as the EU Parliament was discussing their motion, Mr. Erdoğan was quoted as saying Turkey did not need to join the EU “at all costs” and could instead become part of a security bloc dominated by China and Russia.
The Turkish president was accused of “blackmailing” the EU as the migrant deal was being settled back in March, and he has consistently employed threatening rhetoric since.
On the 11th of January, Mr. Erdoğan promised to “open the gates” to hundreds of thousands of migrants who could be transported into Europe by “bus” and even “plane” unless his demands were met in the lead up to the negotiations.
Later during the talks, Turkey made last minute demands for up to €20 billion in additional aid, even faster access to Schengen visas for Turkey’s 70 million citizens, and accelerated progress in its EU membership bid.