ANKARA (Sputnik) – On Wednesday, Turkish Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin ruled out the possibility of Ankara making concessions in its anti-terror legislation to pave way toward a visa-free regime with the 28-member bloc.
"I believe that sooner or later the EU will simplify the visa regime with Turkey. But even if this does not happen, I personally as a Turkish president will not grieve," Erdogan said in an interview with the ATV broadcaster.
Erdogan noted that Ankara was an aspiring EU member since 1963, when the precursor European Economic Community (EEC) signed the Ankara Association Agreement on the customs union.
Additionally, the Turkish president suggested a religious factor in the standoff.
"Germany is home to three million Muslims today and, as a whole, the number of Muslims in Europe has reached 15-20 million people, both immigrants from Turkey and African countries. Thus, such an approach toward Turkey causes indignation. They are attempting to use the visa regime simplification as a trump card in the Syrian issue," Erdogan said.
In March, Brussels and Ankara agreed on a deal under which Turkey pledged to take back all undocumented migrants who arrive in the European Union through its territory in exchange for Syrian refugees accommodated in Turkey, on a one-for-one basis. In return, the 28-member bloc pledged to accelerate the Turkish EU accession bid and introduce a visa-free regime between Turkey and the Schengen Area.
Turkey is yet to meet five out of the 72 total requirements, notably those related to data protection and anti-terrorism laws, among other issues.