The furious Turkish president has vowed to open his country’s borders to all migrants in revenge after the European Parliament voted to halt EU membership talks.
Turkey’s bid to join the EU now looks doomed after the European Parliament demanded that membership talks with Ankara are frozen.
The demand was made amid growing unease over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ‘increasingly authoritarian regime’ in the country.
The demand was made amid growing unease over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ‘increasingly authoritarian regime’ in the country
The EU struck a deal earlier this year to return migrants to Turkey in return for a package including aid for the refugees and accelerated membership talks.
But now Erdogan has declared that if the freeze continues he will open Turkey’s gates for all migrants to flood into Europe.
Speaking at a congress on women’s justice in Istanbul, he said: ‘If you go any further, these border gates will be opened.
‘Neither me nor my people will be affected by these dry threats. It wouldn’t matter if all of you approved the (European parliament) vote.’
‘We are the ones who feed three to 3.5 million refugees in this country. You have betrayed your promises.’
After more than a million migrants made their way into Europe last year, mostly through Turkey, the country agreed to stem the flow of migrants travelling by sea to Greece.
This was in return for certain incentives including fast-tracked membership talks, billions of euros in aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
But the response to the coup has made European nations less keen to negotiate with Turkey, while visa liberalization has hit a hurdle over Turkey’s reluctance to change its antiterror laws.
During Friday’s speech, Erdogan also claimed the money promised also had yet to be delivered.
It comes after the Turkish government launched a heavy-handed crackdown following a failed coup in July. Supporters of Erdogan are pictured staging a rally in Istanbul in July
He said: ‘We have been given 550 million dollars by the United Nations. The European Union promised, but the money it has sent so far is around 700 million. But what have we spent? Up to now we have spent 15 billion dollars.’
Erdogan’s comments come after the European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution yesterday by a 479-37 margin with 107 abstentions and said the talks freeze should last until Ankara’s ‘disproportionate measures’ under the state of emergency are lifted.
Despite the parliamentary vote, EU officials have said that longstanding but unsuccessful talks should not immediately be halted. Some EU nations have called for the suspension of the talks.
But the bloc is struggling to reach a common stance that would balance EU nations’ need for Ankara’s continued help to stop hundreds of thousands of refugees heading to Europe with their concerns about rights abuses.
‘By continuing the illusion of accession talks with an increasingly authoritarian regime, the EU is losing credibility, is fooling our citizens, and also betraying those Turkish citizens who look to Europe as their future,’ said Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal ALDE group.
Anticipating the vote, Erdogan had already said that his country’s ‘struggle for its stability and future won’t be interrupted by (European legislators) raising and lowering their hands.’
Although the vote carries no immediate consequences, it underscores the increasing unease in Europe over Erdogan’s tightening grip on power in the wake of the coup attempt.
Tens of thousands of people, including teachers, journalists and opposition lawmakers, have been arrested or fired. As reports of more detentions and repression came in, the EU’s stance has steadily hardened.
‘We can no longer remain silent in the face of Erdogan’s outrage and the evident breaches of the rule of law and human rights,’ said S&D socialist leader Gianni Pittella.
In Ankara on Thursday, the minister in charge of negotiations with the EU criticized EU nations for not standing in solidarity with Turkey at a time when it is dealing with a spate of violent attacks.
‘Europe is engaged in short-sighted and visionless discussions,’ Omer Celik, told reporters in the southern Turkish city of Adana where hours earlier a car bomb attack killed two people and wounded 16 others.