In an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt business newspaper on Wednesday, European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the EU is not as dependent on Turkey as many believe since Turkey does not want to jeopardize the substantial financial assistance it receives in exchange for taking refugees back.
According to Hahn, Turkey has an incentive to comply with the refugee deal even without the EU granting visa liberalization to Turkish citizens for travelling to Europe because Turkey has already been benefitting from the refugee deal as much as Europe.
The refugee deal, or readmission agreement, requires Turkey to readmit refugees who entered the EU illegally by using Turkey as a transit country. In return, Turkey was promised 3 billion euros. Erdoğan had publicly complained about not receiving the money and urged the EU to give it to Turkey in recent months.
Turkey, according to Hahn, has less leverage over Europe now that the migration route from Turkey through Greece and the Balkans has been closed. “The European Union isn’t as dependent on Turkey as many believe,” Hahn told Handelsblatt.
Although Erdoğan had threatened to suspend the refugee deal if the European Union does not lift visa requirements for Turkish citizens in October, Hahn said the two deals are separate. According to him, for visa liberalization, Turkey must first meet 72 conditions.
In addition to Erdoğan, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik also threatened the union last week and said because the EU did not keep its promises to Turkey, they will not implement the readmission agreement.