BRUSSELS: The planned visa-free travel deal between Turkey and the European Union is at an impasse and the European Commission must find a “new formula” to solve it, Turkey’s EU minister said on Friday.
The comments, some of the harshest yet from EU Minister Volkan Bozkir, will further heighten concerns in Brussels about the future of a deal, designed to give Turks visa-free travel to Europe in return for Ankara stemming the flow of illegal migrants.
While Brussels is desperate for the deal to succeed, it also insists that Turkey meet 72 criteria, including reining in its broad anti-terror laws. The EU and rights groups say Turkey uses the laws to stifle dissent, while Ankara says its sweeping legislation to fight Kurdish insurgents and Islamic State.
“I am not very optimistic about the outcome of the talks we held in Brussels today. It’s essential that the European Commission finds a new formula,” Bozkir told reporters in Brussels, in comments broadcast live on Turkish television.
His comments come a day after President Tayyip Erdogan ratcheted up pressure on Europe over the deal, accusing the bloc of setting new hurdles for visa-free travel and threatening that Turkey may go its own way if they failed to agree.
Turkey’s record on press freedom is a growing concern in Europe. Prosecutors have opened more than 1,800 cases against people for insulting Erdogan since he became president in 2014, including journalists, cartoonists and teenagers.
A German satirist is facing prosecution after mocking him on German TV.