German election candidate Martin Schulz has said the European Union (EU) must not fear Turkey as the politician stepped up his war of words with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In an interview with Euronews partners Ouest-France and Funke, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader said Erdogan could not afford to act upon his threats to scrap Turkey’s migrant deal with the EU.
Schulz said: “He won’t risk breaking the deal on migrants. Without financial backing from Europe he couldn’t handle the two million refugees in Turkey.”
Signed in 2016, the migrant deal promised Turkey aid, visa-free travel for its nationals and accelerated EU membership talks in return for its help in reducing the flow of migrants crossing to Europe.
Schulz called Erdogan’s comments on tearing up the key deal over a widening, increasingly bitter dispute with EU governments “an empty threat” and said that the EU “must not be scared”.
Urging the EU to keep up strong-arm tactics, the German politician added that Turkey could not send migrants currently in Turkey to Europe.
Relations between Germany and Turkey remain tense after clashing over the ban on allowing Turkish politicians to hold campaign rallies in EU countries and Ankara’s contravention of human rights.
In a recent televised debate ahead of the German federal election on 24 September, Schulz agreed with his political rival Chancellor Angela Merkel that the EU should break off negotiations over future Turkish membership.
However, he criticised the Chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Party for having “no purpose, plans or ideas for the future”, adding that Merkel has failed to deliver on her promises for reform in Europe.
Staying with reform within the EU, Schulz praised the efforts of French President Emmanuel Macron to introduce a universal eurozone budget and minister for the monetary zone.
Merkel has also backed the project, indicating that she plans to make overhauling the eurozone a key priority if she wins the upcoming Bundestag elections.