Turkey’s president has threatened to pull the plug on the European Union (EU) migrant deal should the EU fall short on any of his demands – including visa free travel for 70 million Turks by June.
In exchange for the return of “irregular migrants”, Brussels also agreed in late March to provide up to €6 billion in aid, fast track Turkey’s accession into the EU, and bring thousands of extra Syrians over from camps in Turkey.
Deportations slowly began this week, with just over two hundred Pakistani economic migrants returned across the Aegean. However, any slip up or delay on the EU’s part could see the gates flung open once more.
“There are precise conditions. If the European Union does not take the necessary steps, then Turkey will not implement the agreement,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned in a speech at his 1,000 room presidential palace in Ankara.
However, Turkey still has 72 conditions of it’s own to meet before it can secure visa free travel, relating to such things as recognising Cyprus and press freedom. If the EU wavers in these, Turkey could be receiving “discounted” EU membership analysts warn.
“The worst reading of the EU-Turkey deal would be to imagine that Turkey is about to get a ‘discount’ on EU membership conditions just because of the refugees”, Marc Pierini, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, told AFP.
The increasingly autocratic Islamist President has been accused of “blackmailing” the EU over the migrants deal, as he has consistently employed such combative rhetoric.
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 talk with the EU, Turkey made last minuet 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.