Under a deal originally brokered in March 2016, Turkey agreed to help stem the flow of migrants crossing its border into Europe. The EU is due to pay Turkey — initially — US$3.95 billion to bolster its refugee camps and accept "irregular" migrants denied asylum in Greece in return — on a one-for-one basis — for Syrian refugees in Turkey being relocated in the EU.
However, as part of the deal, Turkey demanded that its citizens be given visa-free access to the EU Schengen zone and the acceleration of Turkey's accession into the EU. However, talks have stumbled over Turkey's human rights record and suppression of opposition to the Turkish Government.
Cavusoglu warned at the weekend that if visa liberalization was not brought in by October, the whole migrant deal would fall.
The situation was exacerbated following the attempted coup in July 2016, after which the authorities, detained or sacked thousands of the military, the police, the judiciary and some academics. As a result, many politicians in the European Parliament are saying no deal can be struck with Turkey as it fails to meet EU standards on justice, human rights and democracy — putting at risk the entire migrant deal.
Gabriel told reporters: "The fact that free visa is only going to be granted when Turkey meets the appropriate European standards is not going to change. And that is not happening at the moment. It is up to Turkey if there is or there isn't visa liberalization.
"Europe should under no circumstances be blackmailed. And we have to consider the fact that a country that is on its way to bring death penalty into force is only distancing itself so drastically from Europe," he said.
Socialists and Democrats group Vice-President in the European Parliament, Knut Fleckenstein, echoed Gabriel's statement saying:
"Our position is very clear — we support visa liberalization for all countries that fulfil the relevant benchmarks. This is the case for Turkish citizens as it is for citizens of any other country. However, in reaction to the recent coup attempt Turkey is moving in the wrong direction. We will not be blackmailed into accepting visa liberalization by an increasingly autocratic regime in Ankara."
"Although Turkey is an important partner in solving the refugee crisis, the only lasting solution will be a common European one. e Council must now prepare for the situation that Turkey pulls its support for the refugee deal and be ready with a credible alternative plan.
"The EU must continue to push Turkey to respect fundamental human rights and the rule of law. Turkish citizens must understand that if they want visa liberalization then it is up to their government to act and meet the necessary requirements. We will not accept it any other way."