Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, in an interview with a Belgian newspaper, has said that the EU-Turkey refugee deal must be respected.
In March Turkey and the EU put together a deal for Turkey to halt the flow of refugees and migrants to Europe — an accord that has been successful in reducing numbers crossing the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece where hundreds drowned.
In the interview, Juncker was speaking in response to threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end the refugee deal after the European parliament voted on Thursday to freeze talks on EU membership for Turkey.
Then, on Saturday Erdogan said, “Maybe the state of emergency will be extended by three months and then maybe another three months,” referring to restrictions placed on Turks since a failed July coup – which Europeans oppose.
In the interview, Juncker said that from 2003-2014, while Erdogan was prime minister, Turkey “made a lot of progress in terms of the quality of its democracy”.
But in the past two years, he said, Turkey has “distanced itself from European principles and values.”
He said the current problems between the EU and Turkey is based on Turkey’s refusal to change its anti-terror legislation, a condition for membership in the EU.
He pointed out that the leaders of all the 28 EU nations will have the final say on Turkey’s bid to join the bloc and not the European Parliament. But he said Thursday’s vote was a “warning sign that Turkey should not underestimate.”
The warning seemed to incense the Turkish leader, who said, “Is the European Parliament in charge of this country or is the government in charge of this country? Know your place!”
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