Turkey's interior minister says Ankara could send 15,000 refugees a month to Europe, to “blow its mind.” He said the bloc is “playing games” to prevent Turkey from becoming strong, taking direct aim at Germany and the Netherlands.
“I’m telling you, Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow your mind,” Süleyman Soylu said late Thursday, according to Hurriyet.
The minister was referring to a deal between the EU and Ankara, under which Turkey agreed to help stop the flow of refugees across its border and take back migrants rejected for asylum in Europe.
Ankara agreed to the deal in exchange for billions in refugee assistance from the EU and accelerated talks on becoming a member of the bloc.
It also rallied for visa-free travel to Europe's Schengen zone as part of the deal, but was told by the EU that a list of 72 conditions must first be met – a key sticking point of which is Turkey's strict anti-terrorism laws, which Europe has said must be loosened in order for the agreement to go ahead.
The EU parliament has also expressed concern about Turkey's “disproportionate” reaction to last year's failed coup attempt, which prompted Ankara to launch a mass crackdown. Those targeted included Turkish opposition figures, teachers, journalists, and civil servants deemed sympathetic to Kurdish separatism and self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says was the mastermind behind the unrest.
Europe's hesitation to fulfill its side of the refugee deal has led to Ankara threatening to pull out of the agreement numerous times. However, a German government spokesman said on Friday that there are no signs that the refugee deal has been suspended, Reuters reported.
Soylu went on to specifically address Germany and the Netherlands, both of which have interfered with rallies aimed at encouraging expatriate Turks to vote ‘yes’ in an upcoming referendum which would give Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.
“Who are the main ones trying to get things done? Germany and the Netherlands. Are the elections going to be held in Germany? Will the charter change in Germany or the Netherlands?” he asked, referring to the April 16 referendum.
“This is our internal issue. What do you care? Why are you getting involved in it? Did you accept Turkey into the European Union? Did you provide support to Turkey in its fight against terrorism?” he said.
“There are games being played against Turkey in order to prevent it from becoming strong in the future,” Soylu said.
He went on to state that Turkey is in its strongest period and that “some people can't handle it.”
Turkey has been particularly vocal against the Netherlands in recent days, after Dutch authorities banned ministers from addressing a rally in Rotterdam and dispersed hundreds of protests outside the Turkish consulate on Sunday.
Ankara has also imposed diplomatic sanctions on the Netherlands, suspending high-level talks and barring the Dutch ambassador from returning to Turkey.