Turkey is reportedly doubtful about finalising a deal with the European Union (EU), which would allow Turkish nationals to travel within Europe without visa, as the former is reluctant to change its anti-terror laws — one of the five criteria the Union wants Turkey to meet before signing the deal.
The hopes that Turkish nationals would be allowed visa-free travel within the EU are "getting less and less," Volkan Bozkır, the Turkish minister for European Union affairs, told BBC. It would be impossible to change the anti-terror laws, Bozkır said, adding that Turkey has done as much as it could have. "It is not possible for us to accept any changes to the counter-terrorism law," Reuters quoted Bozkır as saying.
The EU wants Turkey to tone down the provisions in its anti-terror laws that have allegedly been used to frighten journalists and suppress dissent. Turkey's anti-terror laws "is so far reaching that we think that some of the measures are touching not directly the fight against terrorism but, for example, the freedom of expression and of media," the Associated Press quoted Martin Schulz, the European Parliament President, as saying.
Turkey has refused the allegations and claimed the legislation is needed to counter militant groups.
The European Union and Turkey reached an agreement under which Ankara would take back migrants and refugees, who entered Greece through the Aegean Sea, in exchange for financial assistance, speedy talks for EU membership and a list of other major deals, including visa-free travel that was scheduled to come into effect by the end of June.
The EU agreed to grant the deal on visa liberation — allowing Turkish nationals to stay in EU countries for 90 days on business trips or leisure travels — but laid 72 conditions before Turkey, which has not yet agreed to five of the conditions.
The entire agreement seems to be on the brink of collapse as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week made it clear Turkey would not make any changes to its law to counter terrorism. "We'll go our way, you go yours," he said.
Ankara had, on Tuesday, reportedly threatened to send back refugees if the EU-Turkey deal fails. "The European Parliament will discuss the report that will open Europe visa-free for Turkish citizens. If the wrong decision is taken, we will send the refugees (back to Europe)," Erdoğan Burhan Kuzu, the advisor to the President, said in a tweet.
The statement on the agreement between Ankara and Brussels states, "All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey," if they fail to apply for asylum or if the European countries reject their request.
Turkey will also take "measures to prevent new sea or land routes for illegal migration opening from Turkey to the EU."
According to the statement, "For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU taking into account the UN Vulnerability Criteria."