Erdogan's Nazi jibes sour EU relations
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Germany of Nazi-type behaviour after German municipalities banned pro-Erdogan rallies, in a widening EU backlash that also includes Austria and the Netherlands.
“Your actions are no different from what the Nazis used to do … We no longer want to see the Nazi world. We don't want to see the practices of those fascist regimes,” Erdogan told an assembly in Istanbul on Sunday (5 March).
"If I want to, I will come to Germany. If you don't let me in or if you don't let me speak, I will make the whole world rise up,” he said.
He added that he would “humiliate [Germany] before the world” at future international events.
His remarks came after local authorities in three German towns - Gaggenau, Cologne, and Frechen - prevented Turkish ministers from holding campaign rallies with Turkish expats ahead of Turkey’s constitutional referendum on 16 April.
Some 1.5 million German Turks are eligible to vote in the referendum, which aims to consolidate power in Erdogan’s presidential palace, giving him the right to hire and fire ministers and judges and to write the country’s budget, amid other provisions.
The German towns cited security and logistical issues, while the German foreign ministry denied any federal role in their decisions.
Austria had already banned pro-Erdogan rallies last week, with its chancellor, Christian Kern, saying on Sunday that there should be an EU-wide moratorium.
“A collective EU response to prevent such campaign events would make sense so that individual countries like Germany where appearances are forbidden don't end up being pressured by Turkey,” he told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
He added that Erdogan was “trampling on human rights and basic democratic rights" at home.
Referring to an upcoming Turkish rally in Rotterdam, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, also said on Facebook on Friday: “We believe that the Dutch public space is not the place to conduct another country's political campaign”.
Turkey’s economy minister, Nihat Zeybekci, did speak at two events in German towns on Sunday.
But other Turkish ministers and Turkish state media echoed Erdogan’s "Nazi" line.
Turkey's justice minister, Bekir Bozdag, accused Germany of “purely fascist practice."
Its culture minister, Nabi Avci, said that “the discourses of some small Nazi remnant parties” had become “mainstream” in Germany and The Netherlands.
A pro-Erdogan newspaper, the Daily Sabbah, stated that Germany was “best known for orchestrating the Holocaust” and that it was quashing investigations into arson attacks on mosques.
“German politicians, including members of the European Parliament, must be denied entry to Turkey ... German troops stationed at the Incirlik Air Base must be sent back home,” the publication went on to add.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has stayed quiet on the Nazi jibes, while German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that the dispute “should not wreck the foundations of the friendship between our countries.”
The German justice minister, Heiko Maas, also told the ARD broadcaster that if Berlin overreacted it would push Erdogan ”straight into the arms of [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, which no one wants".
But other German politicians were less forgiving.
Julia Kloeckner, the deputy leader of Merkel's CDU party, said Erdogan was "reacting like a defiant child who cannot have his way."
“The Nazi comparison is a new high point of intemperance. It is simply outrageous”, she said.
Volker Kauder, another senior CDU deputy, said: “It is unbelievable and unacceptable that the president of a Nato member speaks about another member-state like that”.
The popular German newspaper Bild called on Merkel to draw a "red line" in her relationship with Erdogan.
It also called on her to free herself of the "handcuffs of the migrant deal”, referring to an EU-Turkey accord to stop Syrian refugees from coming to Europe.
Journalist in jail
The row over the Turkish rallies comes amid an earlier dispute over Turkey’s arrest of a German-Turkish journalist, Deniz Yucel.
The correspondent for the Die Welt newspaper has been accused of spreading “terrorist propaganda” after writing a story that was critical of Erdogan’s son-in-law, who is also Turkey’s energy minister.
Yucel is being held in solitary confinement and faces over 10 years in prison.
Erdogan in a speech on Friday said that the reporter was “a representative of the PKK”, a Kurdish separatist group, and that he was a “German agent, [who] was hidden for a month in the German consulate”.
A source in the German foreign ministry told the Reuters news agency the same day that the claim that Yucel was a German spy was “absurd”.