Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the European Union that his country may wave through up to three million migrants to Europe as Ankara reacted furiously to Thursday’s vote in the European Parliament calling on Turkey’s accession negotiations to be frozen.
Mr Erdogan said that Turkey could row back on the migrant pact signed with the EU in March, which has dramatically reduced the number of refugees entering the EU through Turkey.
As a condition of that deal, the EU promised to accelerate Turkey’s accession talks and consider granting visa-free access to Turkish citizens to Europe.
But concerns about the Turkish government’s increasingly authoritarian stance, as it clamps down on dissenters following July’s failed coup, has sparked calls for Turkey’s accession talks to be suspended.
Speaking in Istanbul on Friday, the Turkish president accused the EU of “betraying its promises”.
“If you go any further, these border gates will be opened,” he said, describing the parliament vote as a “dry threat”.
Elections are looming in a number of EU countries next year, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, with anti-immigration parties expected to poll strongly.
As a result, incumbent governments are unlikely to want to commit to granting 78 million Turkish people visa-free access to Europe.