Europeans everywhere "won’t safely walk the streets", Erdogan says in Ankara speech

By bne IntelliNews March 22, 2017

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued his war of words with EU governments on March 22, remarking that Europeans across the world would not be able to walk safely on the streets if they kept up their current attitude, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Ankara is embroiled in a bitter row with both Germany and the Netherlands over the barring of Turkish ministers who wanted to attend rallies to urge expatriate voters to support Erdogan in the upcoming April 16 referendum on whether to award him an executive presidency with greatly expanded powers.

“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets. We, as Turkey, call on Europe to respect human rights and democracy,” Erdogan said during a speech in Ankara.

The Germans and Dutch have been most particularly upset in the past two weeks by Erdogan’s talk of “Nazi practices” in reference to their cancellation of rallies. While there have been diplomatic efforts at defusing the spat, including calls for calm from Brussels, the Turkish president and his ministers have remained defiant.

Analysts point out that the heated rhetoric may go down well with Turkey’s nationalist voters and thus help the ruling AKP and Erdogan get a Yes in the referendum. But it is difficult to quantify what the impact of it will actually be in the vote. Public opinion surveys produce different results. Several polls have suggested the referendum will be a close call, with more than 10% of voters still undecided.

According to a survey by polling agency Gezici, the No camp has a narrow lead of 51% to 48.9%. Gezici’s survey was carried out after the row erupted. Another polling firm, Politics Arastirma, however, showed a narrow lead for the Yes camp, with 46.2% saying they were in favour of an executive presidency and 36.9% saying they would vote against the proposed constitutional change. Its survey was also conducted after the diplomatic crisis blew up.

Meanwhile, new German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on March 22 used his first speech as head of state to starkly warn Erdogan that he risks destroying everything Turkey has achieved in recent years and damaging ties with its partners, Reuters reported.

"President Erdogan, you are jeopardising everything that you, with others, have built," Steinmeier said, adding that he would welcome "credible signs" that the situation was being eased.

"End the unspeakable Nazi comparisons!" Steinmeier added. "Do not cut the ties to those people who want partnership with Turkey! Respect the rule of law and the freedom of media and journalists! And release [German-Turkish journalist] Deniz Yucel."

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