European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday that Turkey must meet all visa-free travel requirements with the European Union and added that the criteria will not be “watered down” for the country. Juncker's statement came after Turkey warned it will walk away from the refugee deal if the EU did not fulfill its part of the agreement, which includes a visa waiver program and a boost for Ankara's longstanding bid to join the bloc.
“As part of the agreement, we are working towards visa liberalization for Turkish citizens. Turkey must fulfill all remaining conditions,” Juncker told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Tuesday, according to Reuters. "Visa liberalization is a matter of criteria. The criteria will not be watered down in the case of Turkey."
Turkey’s cooperation is key for the EU to enforce the deal, in which Turkey was promised more funding for refugees, a revival of EU accession talks and quicker visa liberalization in exchange for preventing refugees from taking illegal routes to enter Europe, and taking back migrants and refugees who land on Greek islands. However, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday that the country would not support the deal if the EU did not ease the visa requirements for its citizens by June.
“This is a mutual commitment. If the EU cannot take the necessary steps required of it then of course it cannot be expected of Turkey to take these steps," Davutoglu said Monday, according to Agence France-Presse. "I maintain my belief that, God willing, we will have the visa exemption in June. In the absence of that, then of course no one can expect Turkey to adhere to its commitments.”
The condition for granting a waiver for visa has been questioned by several EU members, who have raised concerns that such a move would allow more Muslim migrants and refugees to reach the region, which has been struggling with the worst refugee crisis in decades.
Over 1.1 million refugees and asylum-seekers have reached Europe over the last year, mostly through Greece or Turkey, but the Reuters report said that the daily arrivals have fallen sharply since the deal between the European Commission and Turkey was signed.
Meanwhile, the European Commission on Tuesday announced a new set of projects under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and delivered an additional 110 million euros ($124 million), taking the total support to the facility to 187 million euros.
The commission said in a statement that a further 60 million euros was assigned in special measure to cover expenditures for food, healthcare and accommodation of the refugees brought back from Greece to Turkey. Another 50 million euros was earmarked for humanitarian aid to address the immediate needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“Make no mistake, the EU is already delivering aid to refugees on the ground in Turkey and has been doing so since the beginning of the crisis. The new Facility for Refugees in Turkey allows us to significantly increase our support to help people live in dignity,” Christos Stylianides, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, said in the statement.