EU and Erdoğan clash over visa-free travel

The EU Parliament is only willing to discuss easing visa restrictions for Turks once Ankara has fulfilled all its criteria. Turkish President Erdoğan has so far refused to change his country's anti-terrorism laws, which according to Brussels contravene European constitutional standards. Should Europe maintain its tough stance vis-à-vis Erdoğan?

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Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Both sides have a lot to lose

The EU and Turkey risk taking their dispute over visa-free travel and the refugee deal too far, Hospodářské noviny complains:

“The Turkish president feels strong enough to demand concessions regarding the 72 criteria for visa-free travel. But in its willingness to comply Berlin must nonetheless take the European Parliament into consideration, which last week stressed that the 72 criteria remain 72 criteria. If Turkey, which has fallen out with all its neighbours, does find any allies it will be in Europe, which is where the tourists come from and where it sells its goods. Not just Erdoğan and the EU but also those who have no interest in a solution that would be acceptable to all in the migration crisis are to blame for the war of words. Including those who are looking on with satisfaction as the refugee issue tears the European states apart.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Erdoğan threatens EU out of fear

President Erdoğan has threatened to let the refugee deal collapse if the EU continues to insist that it amend its counter-terrorism legislation. But he's just acting out of fear, Le Figaro believes:

“Erdoğan is making a headlong rush to try to consolidate his increasingly solitary, authoritarian hold on power. He has gagged the press, banned any form of protest, filled the prisons, neutralised his rivals, and pitilessly fought the Kurdish separatists with whom he was negotiating not so long ago. Economic growth no longer offers him protection, and he's lost all influence over the situation in Syria. ... Erdoğan is acting like a man in panic. Turkey's ruler is ruled by fear. This also explains his blackmail stance vis-à-vis the EU, which he has threatened with a new wave of refugees. The Europeans should prepare for a backlash: they will see that no one but themselves can secure their borders.”

Népszabadság (HU) /

Liberalised visa policy doesn't pose threat to Europe

The daily Népszabadság explains why the EU should grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens:

“Will Turkish economic migrants really descend on Europe en masse? They've come up to now and either received work permits or worked in the shadow economy. Some of them returned to their home country, however, because they could earn more there. ... The possibility of visa-free travel strengthens not only civil society but also civil values. A significant number of Turks see themselves as part of the West. They have secular values and any kind of fanaticism is foreign to them. All they want is to discover the world. Conquering Buda as their [Ottoman] ancestors did in 1541, couldn't be further from their minds. If visa-free travel fails it would be a concession to the nationalist, anti-Western and antidemocratic forces in Turkey.”

T24 (TR) /

Erdoğan doesn't want good relations with EU

Turkey's behaviour is endangering the deal with the EU, the online paper T24 fears:

“There are 2.5 million migrants here, so what will Ankara do now? Visa free-travel in exchange for refugees was a good deal but now it threatens to lose value. As long as it is postponed, or even turns into a threat, the deal loses its magic. … Relations with the EU could become even tenser. We have fallen out with one neighbour after another. Now there is no one left in our proximity with whom we haven't fallen out. Our relations with the EU are hanging by a thread. Who knows, perhaps there is someone here who wants us to be cut off from our neighbours and the West in particular. Perhaps there is someone who dreams of an isolated and Turkey left to its own devices.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

It's about the Turks, not Erdoğan

The European Parliament should not focus solely on Erdoğan's policy in its decision on visa-free travel for Turks, Frankfurter Rundschau urges:

“One thing shouldn't be forgotten in the assessment of the situation here: this is about people. Not just the refugees, but the millions of Turks, naturalized or not, who live in the countries of the EU, including Germany. They have a great interest in their relatives at last being able to visit them without problems. And economically it also makes sense to make the border more permeable. In other words: threatening gestures are one thing but they must not get in the way of a sensible policy in the people's best interests - as difficult as it may be to put into practice.”

Duma (BG) /

Enough of the flirting with Ankara

Duma, by contrast, praises the EU parliament for its tough stance regarding Erdoğan:

“The same logic unfortunately does not convince the bureaucratic minds in the EU Commission who gave a green light to visa-free travel last week. In accordance with Merkel's policy, Brussels is flirting with Ankara by agreeing to absurd and adventurous deals although it's clear that that won't stop the refugee tsunami. ... In the meantime the autocrat Erdoğan is bold enough to accuse Europe of flaunting democracy, waging all-out war in south-eastern Turkey and attempting to set up his own tailor-made presidential system. ... It's high time that the EU heads of government woke up and took note of the risks they are taking with Turkey. They must stop hiding behind short-term solutions and find true solutions.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Erdoğan isolated in the West

Erdoğan has pushed the EU too far because there is no longer anyone to give him sound advice, the liberal daily Hürriyet Daily News believes:

“By bashing the West, Erdoğan has pushed himself into international isolation. He has no friends left in the West who could give him sound advice. So in the absence of domestic and foreign 'mechanisms' that will give him healthy assessments about his European interlocutors, he might overplay his hand and his brinkmanship could lead to more Turkish road accidents with Europe. So, when it comes to the most concrete question on the current agenda - whether the EU-Turkey refugee deal will hold, resulting in visa-free travel for Turks, after the departure of Davutoğlu - the answer seems to be: 50/50.”

Reporter (GR) /

Athens at the mercy of Ankara

If the refugee deal fails Greece would bear the brunt of the burden, the web portal Reporter is convinced:

“Even now Greece is unable to deal with the comparatively low number of refugees in the country. Since our borders are closed, the refugees arriving in boats will stay in Greece. The Nato presence in the Aegean does have a deterrent effect, as does the closure of the borders in northern Greece. But whether the refugees remain in Turkey or leave for Greece will depend largely on what the Turkish government decides. And Greece has no plans for how to deal with this situation.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Europe needs a plan B

It is extremely risky for the EU to be entirely dependent on President Erdoğan, Jutarnji list warns:

“Turkey's behaviour is unpredictable, and even the EU will find it anything but easy to fulfil its promises to Turkey. It will have a hard time securing the necessary support from the European Parliament for lifting visa restrictions. And we can easily guess how Erdoğan will react when he's told that he hasn't fulfilled all the criteria. He's already announced that he has no intention of doing so. Above all he will not change his counter-terrorism laws. ... So the EU needs a plan B. Because if visa-free travel is not introduced by June 30, Erdoğan will allow a new wave of refugees to leave Turkey for Europe the very next day.”

Milliyet (TR) /

Turks set on joining the EU

On the occasion of Europe Day Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stressed that EU membership is a top priority for Ankara. If so, he would do well to make amends after his harsh words against the EU, the daily newspaper Milliyet finds:

“The reinvigoration of relations between Turkey and the EU seems to have had a positive influence on the Turkish public. According to recent surveys 75.7 percent of the respondents support EU membership - compared to 61 percent last year. 64.4 percent, however, don't believe this goal will be realized. Nonetheless a broad section of society still wants to join the EU, seeing this as the path to prosperity, visa-free travel or democratic rights and freedoms. The government representatives should keep this in mind and redouble their efforts to achieve this goal”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

The EU is an unreliable partner

Europe won't give the Turks visa-free travel, columnist and advisor to the President, Saadet Oruç, comments dispiritedly in the pro-government paper Daily Sabah:

“Many EU officials believe that if the visa requirement is lifted for Turkish nationals, a wave of Turks will invade the streets of European countries. But this fear is more due to scare mongering European media than the intentions of Turkish citizens themselves.. ... Despite the fact that Turkey did its best with Brussels regarding the migration flow, Europe is dragging its feet to not complete its promises. Ignoring my current position as a former Turkish resident of a European country, it is hard to believe that Europe will grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens. It is certain that Europe represents a reliability problem in Turkey. First of all, it should lift its psychological barrier to other identities before finding excuses for its unreliability. That is more important than any deal reached in real politics. ”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

A decision between interests and values

Erdoğan's statement is no empty threat, warns Hürriyet Daily News:

“The bold declaration by Erdoğan that Turkey would not change its antiterrorism law for the sake of a visa deal ought to be taken very seriously by Europe. The bolder 'we will go our way; you go yours' statement must be taken even more seriously. After all, Erdoğan is a man of his word and if he said he will dump the deal if his conditions are not met, he will surely dump it. Is Europe ready for a new flood of Syrian, Iraqi, Asian and African refugees? What comes first for Europe, its interests or norms and values? Europe must decide.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Risky refugee deal could collapse

De Volkskrant also sees the agreements with Ankara hanging in the balance:

“[The refugee deal] was never a pretty thing, but it had several advantages: it was practical because the EU member states clearly couldn't cope with their own outer borders. And it was strategically advantageous because Europe attaches great importance to maintaining Turkey as a Muslim borderland and not letting it degenerate into an unstable and potentially violent outpost of the Middle East. But unfortunately this step was taken from a position of powerlessness, when Europe was fighting to just to keep its head above water. So from the start the deal with Turkey has been less the product of mature diplomacy than a panic reaction. Power politics doesn't mean throwing all your principles overboard. Because if you're unlucky the fight can leave you severely weakened: without principles and without results.”