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26 Aug 16

Turkey Sets Visa-Free Deadline for EU

The Turkish PM told his Bulgarian counterpart to pass on the message that the EU must drop visa requirements for Turkish citizens in October if Brussels wants to send back migrants to Turkey as agreed.

Mariya Cheresheva BIRN Sofia
Bulgarian PM Borissov meets Turkish President Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday. Photo: Boyko Borissov/Facebook

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made it clear on Friday that unless the EU guarantees visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by the end of October, Ankara could back out of its agreement to help stem the flow of migrants to the European bloc.

“We want our European friends to understand that the time to take more responsibility on the migrant question has come,” Yildirim said after talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Istanbul.

“It is vitally important the agreement for visa liberalisation enters into force by the end of October. If the readmission agreement and the visa liberalisation do not enter into force, this would put Europe under huge risk,” he added.

Yildirim explained that he “made this clear” to his Borissov, and said he was sure the Bulgarian premier would pass the message on to EU leaders.

Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens in the EU is among Ankara’s main requirements in order for European countries to be able to send back migrants to Turkey as part of the controversial deal that the bloc signed with the Turkish authorities in March.

But the EU has said that Turkey has not met the necessary requirements for visa liberalisation in the field of human rights protection and has called on Turkey to change its new anti-terror law.

After his talks with Yildirim and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Borissov is flying to Berlin, where he will discuss the refugee crisis at a meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the prime ministers of Slovenia, Austria and Croatia.

“I have many messages to share with my friends. I have written them down in order to be accurate,” Borissov said on Friday.

Borissov said that the EU had made an agreement with Turkey on visa liberalisation and should stick to it.

He also called for Europe-wide solidarity with countries such as Bulgaria and Greece and noted that he would not allow “Bulgaria to be a buffer between Turkey and Europe”.

He rejected the idea of signing a bilateral agreement with Turkey to deter the flow of migrants.

“If we guarantee our border with Turkey, who will guarantee the Greek, the Macedonian, the Serbian borders?” he asked.

Earlier this week Borissov complained about what he called an “absolute lack of solidarity” among EU members in terms of managing the refugee crisis. 

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