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Turkey’s PM vows to keep anti-terrorism law at expense of losing EU migrant deal

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Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated on Tuesday that Turkey is not planning to make any amendments to the anti-terrorism law, which is a condition set by the European Union (EU), even if this means the failure of the migrant deal with the EU.

Speaking at the parliamentary group meeting by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Yıldırım said “They have been recently pushing something to us. It is their habit. They save the last thing they were planning to say for the very end. They bring it up right when things are about to work out. They have brought up the condition of [amending the controversial] anti-terrorism law. Is that in line with friendship? Under these circumstances, it is out of question to make any changes in the anti-terrorism law, even if it costs [us loss of possible] visa exemption [for Turks]. Let them keep the visa exemption. This is no longer Turkey in 1960s.”

Turkey’s anti-terrorism law has long been debated because of its extensive scope and its ability to be used against dissidents solely based on academic material or articles as “evidence” of supporting terrorism.

According to Yıldırım, Turkey has been holding its end of the agreement with the EU by meeting most of the 72 articles cited in the deal, adding that the country is now expecting the EU to show the same sincerity. Yıldırım noted that the EU was supposed to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens by June 2016.

The March 18 agreement sets out measures for stemming Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II, including stepped-up checks by Turkey and the shipping back to Turkish territory of migrants who arrive in Greece. In return, Turkey is slated to receive benefits including visa-free travel for its citizens to Europe, which in the accord is promised “at the latest” by June 2016. Turkey is also to receive up to the end of 2018 a total of six billion euros in financial aid for the over 2.7 million Syrian refugees it is hosting.
In late May, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that if the talks fail to result in a visa exemption for the Turkish citizens in EU countries, the Turkish parliament will not pass the migrant deal.

Last week, Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik said that Turkey’s plans to secure visa-free travel to Europe by July would fail. Çelik told at a TV program during his visit to the Netherlands, “To be realistic, we will not make it [visa-free travel] to that date [July 1]. But We think that we have to accomplish it as soon as possible.”

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