BRUSSELS (AA) – Omer Celik used his first visit to Brussels as Turkey's EU minister Wednesday to reiterate that despite European Union demands, Ankara will not change its laws on terrorism, as the country is facing very dangerous terrorist groups such as the PKK and Daesh.
Celik, the EU minister and chief negotiator, said on Twitter that in the EU capital, he had discussed irregular migration and the visa liberalization process with Dimitris Avramopoulos, the commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, as well as accession negotiations and Turkish-EU relations with Johannes Hahn, commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations.
“We pointed out that Turkey can’t make any changes in the law on the fight against terrorism”, Celik told a news conference at Turkey’s Embassy to Brussels.
Celik said that Turkey is dealing with terror attacks from very dangerous terror organizations such as the PKK, Daesh, and the DHKP-C.
He said that EU must not expect any change in the law at a time when Turkey “is under all these attacks,” alluding to several high-profile terrorist attacks since last year. “That is not a realistic approach,” he said.
Celik’s visit to Brussels comes at a time of concern over a landmark Turkey-EU agreement reached in March under which Turkey takes back refugees headed for Europe while the EU is to provide 6 billion euros ($6.8 billion) to aid millions of refugees in Turkey, speed up the country’s EU accession, and introduce visa-free travel for Turkish nationals.
According to the 28-nation bloc's executive body, Turkey has five remaining benchmarks, out of an initial 72, to fulfill to enable nearly 80 million Turkish citizens to travel freely in the Schengen borderless zone.
The five remaining benchmarks touch on issues including: anti-corruption measures; data protection in line with EU standards; cooperation with the EU’s law enforcement agency Europol; judicial cooperation on criminal matters with all EU member states; and "revising the legislation and practices on terrorism in line with European standards".
Ankara has firmly rejected any change in the terrorism law, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning there would be no readmission agreement with the EU unless talks on visa freedom for Turks are "fruitful".
Speaking at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul last week, Erdogan said: "If these [talks] are fruitful, it’s good, [but] if not, then what will happen is that a step will have to be taken at the Turkish parliament and the law regarding the readmission agreement will not be carried out”.
At the news conference, Celik said that Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu and European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans had set a roadmap for visa liberalization when they met last week in Antalya, Turkey.
He said that starting Thursday, technical experts will gather in Turkey “to exchange views” on the protection of personal data and the terrorism law.
Celik added that together with Cavusoglu he would later meet Timmermans, if the expert-level meeting proves fruitful.
He said that later “the issue will be discussed at the level of leaders,” as recently agreed between Erdogan and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.