EU and Turkey locked in war of words over refugee pact

The head of the European Commission has said that the EU-Turkey refugee deal must be respected.

“We made an agreement, it must be respected and it will be,” Jean-Claude Juncker, commission chief, said in an interview with Belgium’s La Libre Belgique newspaper, published on Saturday.

Juncker was commenting on threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end the deal after the European parliament’s voted to freeze talks on Turkey’s EU membership.

“I believe that Erdogan and his government are in the process of ‘pre-blaming’ Europe for the failure of its accession negotiations,” he added.

Majority of Germans against EU-Turkey refugee deal

On Friday, Erdogan threatened to walk away from the agreement, a day after the European Parliament angered Ankara by backing a freeze of its EU accession talks.

On Saturday, he stepped up his criticism of Europe, warning that Turkey could extend by at least another three months a state of emergency placed since the failed July coup, but which is opposed by Europe.

“Maybe the state of emergency will be extended by three months and then maybe another three months,” he said. “This is a decision for the government and the parliament.

“What’s it to you?” he told the European Parliament.

“Know your place!” he added, in an angry tirade.

In the Belgian newspaper interview, Juncker pointed to the period from 2003-2014 while Erdogan was prime minister, when Turkey “made a lot of progress in terms of the quality of its democracy”.

But in the past two years, the country has “distanced itself from European principles and values,” he said.

Junker said the current impasse between EU and Turkey stems from Ankara’s refusal to change its anti-terror legislation, a condition for membership laid down by the EU.

“Instead of putting this failure on the European Union and Commission, Mr Erdogan would do well to start by asking himself if he is responsible for Turks not being able to freely move on European territory,” he said.

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