Europe is preparing for another migrant crisis over fears Turkey’s newly empowered President Erdogan will turn his back on the nation’s long-awaited EU membership.
Officials across the continent are expecting Erdogan to square up to Brussels, reinstating the death penalty and demanding visa-free travel within the EU’s Schengen area.
The increasingly authoritarian Turkish president, who narrowly won a referendum granting him more control over key areas of the government, made an agreement with the EU to home some three million migrants during the height of the migrant crisis.
But Erdogan’s willingness to square up to the bloc’s “red line” opposition to capital punishment has led to fears they may allow their migrant population to move into Europe.
It follows last week’s stern warning from Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who claimed Turkey would throw away the EU’s migrant deal if free movement was not granted.
The Italian leader of the socialists in the European Parliament Gianni Pittella said MEP’s were concerned about building closer ties with the Islamic republic ahead of a vote on visa-free travel next week.
He said: “We’ve always been very reluctant to ensure a visa-free regime to Turkey as, in our opinion, Ankara does not match the democratic criteria.
“Now after the referendum our concerns are even bigger.”
Meanwhile the Greek military is preparing to act on emergency plans in the event of another migrant crisis.
A senior Greek official told The Times: “There was a lot of steamy, bellicose rhetoric made by Erdogan ahead of the referendum.
“If he continues with belligerent policies then Greece will be the first to face the fallout.
“The fear is real but the question is whether Erdogan will risk turning into a regional pariah.”
Omer Celik, Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, claimed Ankara will push ahead with their visa-free travel plan and tell the EU to drop calls for reform to their hardline anti-terror legislation – or face the consequences.
Mr Celik said: “While legislation is being aggravated and strengthened in the face of terrorist threats across Europe, it is unrealistic to expect that Turkey should weaken its legislation.”
He added: “If we get a negative response from the EU we have the right to re-evaluate and suspend all of these agreements.”