Turkey defies EU on key condition for visa-free travel
ANKARA - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused the European Union of "hypocrisy" for telling Ankara to adapt its counter-terror laws in return for visa-free travel to the Schengen area.
"The EU stands up and says 'soften your approach over the terrorist organisation'," Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara, referring to Turkey's battle against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels.
"Since when are you running this country? Who has given you the authority?" he asked.
"It's impossible to comprehend how they can be democrats and how they can believe in democracy."
In one of his most stinging attacks in recent weeks on the European Union, Erdogan accused the bloc of "hypocrisy" and said:
"They believe they have a right for themselves (to fight terror) but find it a luxury and unacceptable for us. Let me say it clearly -- this is called hypocrisy."
Turkey concluded a deal with the EU in March to curb the migrant flow to Europe in return for political incentives including visa-free travel to the passport-free Schengen as well as billions of euros in aid from Brussels for refugees.
Ankara however is obliged to meet the remaining five out of 72 conditions for its citizens to enjoy visa-free travel to Europe.
But with the Turkish military battling the PKK in the Kurdish-majority southeast, Turkey says it cannot change its counter-terror laws, sparking fears over the fate of the migrant deal.
Erdogan added it was a "historic mistake" for Turkey's relations with the EU to be determined by "the terrorist organisation (PKK) and the politicians' demands that are guided by it."
He said if the EU preferred to take the "terrorist organisation" as its interlocutor instead of Turkey, "there's no problem from our perspective."
Turkey has for decades sought to become a member of the EU but its bid has hit repeated stumbling blocks, sparking increasing bitterness in Ankara.