The European Union needs Turkey more than Ankara needs the bloc, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday, denouncing a new European Parliament report that was sharply critical of the rule of law in his country.
His comments come amid controversy in Europe over a deal between Brussels and Turkey to stop the flow of migrants from war-torn Syria and other troubled countries to EU territory.
“The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union,” Erdogan said to cheers in a televised speech to municipal leaders in Ankara, denouncing as “provocative” last week’s European Parliament report which accused Ankara of backsliding on democracy.
He lashed out at the report for not praising Turkey’s hosting of some 2.7 million refugees from the war in neighboring Syria.
“Three million people have been looked after in this country so they don’t disturb the Europeans. Is there anything about this in the report?” said Erdogan.
“At a time when our relations with the European Union are in a positive phase regarding the migrants… it is provocative to come out with a report like that,” he added.
Turkey has been given a string of promises from the European Union in return for stepping up work to stop migrants crossing to EU territory and also taking them back.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned Monday that Ankara would not abide by its side of the deal unless the EU fulfils a promise to grant Turks visa-free travel by June.
“This is a mutual commitment. If the EU cannot take the necessary steps required of it then of course it cannot be expected of Turkey to take these steps,” Davutoglu told reporters at Ankara airport before heading to Strasbourg to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.