ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey is doing everything it can to fulfill an agreement with the European Union to stem migration but will not change its counter-terrorism laws as part of the deal, a spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
The comments from Ibrahim Kalin come as Turkey has accused Europe of throwing up new hurdles in the deal, which is meant to give Turks visa-free travel to the bloc in return for stopping the flow of illegal migrants.
Brussels has said Ankara needs to narrow its legal definition of terrorism and change some other laws to meet EU standards for the deal to go through. Some European countries are worried Turkey’s anti-terrorism law is too broad and is being used to stifle dissent.
Such a change was “out of the question”, Kalin told a news conference in Ankara, saying it would only serve to encourage terror organizations.
He said Turkey was doing all it could to fulfill its side of the bargain and had no change in attitude or policy. Some European policymakers fear the pending exit of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who has so far largely delivered Turkey’s side of the deal, could undermine progress.
Erdogan and members of the government have accused European leaders of adding new barriers like the counter-terrorism law. But Marietje Schaake, who was led a delegation from the European Parliament to Turkey on Wednesday, denied this.
“The visa liberalization criteria were agreed between the EU and Turkey in 2013. There are 72 criteria that have been put on paper. The European Parliament believes these criteria should have been met before we can bring the visa liberalization question to our vote,” she told a news conference in Istanbul.
“If Turkey finds what it has itself agreed in 2013 unacceptable then we have a different problem. But those 72 criteria were agreed in 2013,” Schaake said.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Melih Aslan; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk and David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler