Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened on March 21 to carry out a post-April 16 referendum review of Ankara’s relations with the “fascist and cruel” EU.
Erdogan, who has upset both Germany and Holland with “Nazi” jibes while out on the campaign trail to win a referendum that could deliver him an executive presidency, shows no sign of wanting to ease tensions between Ankara and Brussels. Observers say he is trying to whip up ‘Us and Them’ nationalism in order to secure more votes in the vital poll on hugely expanding his powers.
“Turkey will no longer be threatened by the EU membership process or the migrant deal. Those days are over. We’ll do what is necessary,” a defiant Erdogan told a cheering crowd in Ankara.
In his speech in the capital, Erdogan repeated the Nazi comparisons that first infuriated Germany and then the Netherlands. “Today’s Europe resembles that of the racists and fascist Europe of the pre-World War Two era,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan added that Turkey would not allow any European country to carry out espionage activities on its soil, in a probable reference to Deniz Yucel, the Turkish-German journalist arrested last month in Turkey to Berlin and human rights groups’ dismay. Ankara claims Yucel was acting as a German agent and as a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), though it often uses such labels as a way to lock up the almost 200 journalists that are languishing in its jails.
Berlin has long criticised Turkey’s human rights record, but it has tended to avoid taking any action that could alienate Ankara and undermine its crucial support in Europe's battle to stem the flow of migrants from the Middle East trying to reach the continent.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s patience is being sorely tested by Erdogan. “My demand that Turkey should stop Nazi comparisons remains in force, with no ifs or buts,” she said on March 20, according to Reuters. “Unfortunately, we have observed that these comparisons have not stopped, and we will not tolerate every taboo being broken,” Merkel added.
Responding to Erdogan's latest jibes, Volker Bouffier, the vice chair of Merkel’s Christian Democrat party, said: “Mr Erdogan and his government are not welcome in our country, and that must be now be understood.”
Despite his hostility to Berlin, Erdogan has been talking about possibly addressing Turkish expatriates at a referendum rally in Germany.