The Associated Press ANKARA (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Thursday to scrap a deal with the European Union to readmit migrants who have crossed illegally into Europe, amid a standoff with European nations over their reluctance to allow Turkish ministers to hold campaign rallies in their countries.
In a feisty campaign speech in northwest Turkey, Erdogan said the EU could “forget about” the deal, in which Ankara agreed to readmit migrants that had reached Greece illegally via Turkey — a key transit country for tens of thousands trying to flee fighting and poverty and enter Europe. In return, the EU was to grant Turkish citizens the right to travel to many European countries visa-free.
The comments were the latest in Turkey’s bitter diplomatic spat with Germany and the Netherlands, which last week prevented two Turkish ministers from addressing Turkish citizens in Rotterdam in the lead-up to a referendum on constitutional reforms that would increase Erdogan’s powers. One minister was escorted out to the country, while the other was denied permission to land. Some German authorities have also blocked appearances by Turkish ministers trying to attend similar rallies.
On Thursday, Erdogan reiterated angry criticism of the ban. He also accused the EU of not sticking to a promise to grant Turkish nationals the right to travel visa-free in Europe.
“Now they’re talking about the readmission agreement. What readmission? Forget about it,” he said, referring to the migrant deal. The agreement, which was initially reached in 2013, was revived last year, when Turkey agreed to help keep migrants from crossing into the EU in return for funds to help it deal with about 3 million refugees.