Sunday, May 8, 2016

EU-Turkey visa deal on brink as Erdoğan refuses to change terror laws

Constanze Letsch in Istanbul and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels, The Guardian

Image from article, with caption: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in defiant mood the day after Turkey’s prime minister stepped down.

Refugee pact appears in danger of falling apart as Turkish president tells Europe: ‘We’ll go our way, you go yours’

A visa-free travel deal between the EU and Turkey was on the brink of collapse on Friday night, after Turkey’s president insisted he would not change his country’s anti-terrorism laws, a key condition of the agreement. “We’ll go our way, you go yours,” said Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
When the European commission made a conditional offer of visa-free travel earlier this week, it said Ankara must rewrite its anti-terrorism laws because they were used to prosecute journalists and government critics.
Erdoğan gave a defiant speech the day after Ahmet Davutoğlu stepped down as prime minister and leader of the ruling Justice and Development, or AK, party, over insurmountable differences with the president, in a move interpreted by critics and opposition politicians as a “palace coup”. ...
His departure is a blow to European leaders, who did not hide the fact they were sorry to see him go. “Ahmet Davutoğlu was one of the most reliable and constructive interlocutors between the European Union and the Republic of Turkey,” said Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament.
“I hope that the future Turkish government – whoever will be the next prime minister – will continue that constructive line of cooperation for which Ahmet Davutoğlu was very representative.”
The official line is that Davutoğlu’s departure changes nothing. “Agreements are negotiated with states and governments, not individuals,” Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told Der Spiegel.
But behind the facade of public diplomacy, European leaders will be alarmed by reports that Turkey’s next prime minister will be recruited in Erdoğan’s image. Candidates tipped for the post include Berat Albayrak, the energy minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law. ... 

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