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    A migrant girl cries as she waits at a Turkish coast guard station at the Dikili district in Izmir, on March 20, 2016, after being catched with other migrants while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos from the Bademli village, western Turkey.

    EU Facing Dilemma Over Migrant Deal as Turkey Turns Up Pressure on Brussels

    © AFP 2018 / Ozan Kose
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    The European Union is facing a deepening crisis after Turkish foreign affairs minister Mevlut Cavusoglu once again threatened to scrap the EU-Turkey migrant deal if it does not get visa-free access by October, while Ankara has set up a pro-Erdogan PR agency to improve his image abroad.

    The EU-Turkey migrant deal was brokered in March 2016 between Brussels and Ankara in order to stem the flow of migrants crossing through Turkey into Europe. Under the deal, the EU was 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, the EU was supposed to grant Turkish citizens visa-free access to the EU by the end of July and accelerate its accession to becoming a full member of the EU, provided it meets more than 70 criteria relating to human rights and other administrative protocols.The next meeting between Ankara and Brussels is on September 9, according to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs.

    ​Turkish foreign affairs minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned Thursday (August 25) that, if Turkish citizens did not have visa-free access to Europe by October, the whole deal would be off.

    "It is not right to say: 'Let's implement the deal that favors the EU, but not the one favorable to Turkey.' It is not fair," he told reporters.

    The deal was already faltering over some of the 72 criteria Turkey has to meet. Most notably on anti-terror powers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is refusing to change anti-terror laws that he has used against journalists and media companies. Moreover, he has recently passed a law lifting immunity for lawmakers in a move critics say will lead to the victimization of opposition politicians. Erdoğan's support for the reintroduction of the death penalty is another major blocker.

    ​The deal was already in trouble over Erdogan's increasing grip on power, crackdown on opposition parties and the media as well as criticism of his human rights record. Since the attempted coup, however, his massive suppression of those associated with the coup — the judiciary, the military and the police — has been the cause of deep skepticism within the EU over Turkish membership, putting the migrant deal in peril and raising the specter of thousands more migrants flooding into Europe each day.

    Ankara PR Campaign

    Now Brussels has another headache to deal with: Turkey is setting up a PR agency to improve the image of Erdogan abroad. According to the Hurriyet Daily News, a number of top business people have joined Turkey's economy ministries and to launch a comprehensive PR campaign to try to improve the country's image abroad.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016
    © AFP 2018 / ADEM ALTAN
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016

    The paper quotes Development Minister Lutfil Elvan as saying "that a systematic negative 'perception operation' had started abroad against Turkey after the failed July 15 coup attempt. 'We will overcome these difficult days by working together with nongovernmental organizations, businesspeople and public institutions,'" the paper said.

    A European Commission report on the state of play of negotiations on visa-free access for Turks and the accession of Turkey into the EU is expected in September. The next EU summit will be in Bratislava, Slovakia, mid-September and Brussels will have its work cut out to reconcile Turkey's demands with the rising tide of opposition to visa-free travel and Turkish accession. It is facing the migrant deal falling apart completely.

    Related:

    Erdogan: EU Would Reinstate Death Penalty if Faced Similar Terrorism as Turkey
    Call for Halt to EU-Turkey Deal After More Journalists Arrested
    Merkel to Uphold EU-Turkey Refugee Deal Despite Ankara’s Post-Coup Crackdown
    Refugee Crisis Reaching Saturation Point, EU-Turkey Deal Offers No Solution
    Tags:
    EU-Turkey migrant deal, EU-accession, refugee crisis, migrant crisis, visa-free travel, EU-Turkey migrant deal, European Commission, European Parliament, European Council, European Union, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey, Ankara, Brussels
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