14:50 GMT24 June 2021
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    The EU-Turkey migrant deal is at risk of collapse amid an increase in tensions between both parties, Austria's defense minister has warned, calling on the EU to come up with contingency plans.

    "As the deal between the EU and Turkey is turning more and more fragile and the first cracks are becoming visible, we must make sure that we are ready to act," Hans Peter Doskozil said following a meeting with counterparts from Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Slovakia.

    The comments come amid Turkish threats to scupper the deal if certain requirements aren't met, with Doskozil's call for a plan B to be put in place marking a significant change from EU officials, who have previously put their faith in the EU-Turkey deal.

    ​The agreement, signed by Turkey and the EU in March, has been seen as a key factor behind reducing the number of refugees and migrants travelling from Turkey to Greece, via the Aegean Sea.

    As part of the one-for-one deal, Turkey has agreed to take back every migrant who reaches Greek territory, while EU officials have agreed to accept a refugee from existing camps in Turkey. 

    EU officials pledged to provide Turkey with US$6.6 billion in aid as part of the agreement, while the deal also allows visa-free travel for Turkish citizens within the bloc, providing Ankara meets a set of guidelines.

    Visa Concerns and Human Rights

    Despite the migration agreement's relative success in slowing migrant flows, the growing tension between Ankara and Brussels is leading to increased concern that the deal may be scrapped.

    While Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the EU for not granted visa liberalization to Turks, EU officials say Turkey has not yet met particular guidelines, which includes reforming the country's anti-terror laws.

    ​"If Turkey does not fulfill the conditions laid down, there will be no progress on visas," EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

    In a separate interview on Tuesday November 8, Juncker warned Erdogan directly that he would be held responsible if visa-free travel wasn't granted to Turkish citizens.

    ​"Everything the Turkish authorities are doing today leads me to believe that in the end Turkey does not want to be ready to respect European standards," he said.

    "We need Turkey… but we cannot give up on our main principles," Juncker added.

    ​The comments come amid increasing EU concern over Turkey's actions following the country's failed coup in July.

    Since then, more than 110,000 public servants have been detained, suspended or sacked, 2,000 schools have been closed, while media organizations and some opposition politicians have been arrested.

    'Nazi State' and 'Terrorist Sympathizers'

    The post-coup purges have led to severe criticism from European figures, with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn likening the actions of the Turkish government to that of the Nazi party.

    "To put it bluntly, these are methods that were used during the Nazi era and that's a really, really bad development… that the European Union simply cannot accept," he said.

    ​In an escalation of tensions, Asselborn also suggested imposing economic sanctions on Turkey, noting that half of Turkish exports are sold in the EU.

    "At a certain point in time, we won't have any choice but to apply it [sanctions] to counteract the unbearable human rights situation."

    The criticism has been met with a strong reply in Ankara, with Erdogan accusing Germany of "aiding terror" by allegedly providing a safe base for anti-Turkish members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).


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    Turkey Purge, diplomatic row, human rights, migration, EU-Turkey migrant deal, coup attempt in Turkey, Justice and Development Party (AKP), European Union, Hans Peter Doskozil, Jean-Claude Juncker, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Greece
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