Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Erdogan harangues EU at Strasbourg rally

  • Erdogan speech had Islamist and anti-European tone (Photo: svenwerk)

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “crush” Kurdish “terrorists” and harangued the EU over its handling of the migrant crisis at two rallies on Sunday (4 October).

The first event, in Strasbourg, France, saw about 12,000 French, German, Belgian, and Swiss-origin Turkish supporters hear him speak on counter-terrorism, the AFP news agency reports.

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He didn’t mention Islamic State.

But he vowed to “crush” the PKK, the Kurdish separatist movement.

He also accused the EU of doing little to help Turkey share the “burden” of Syrian refugees.

His speech had an Islamist and anti-European tone.

It was preceded by a Muslim prayer. Erdogan described Turkish soldiers killed in recent PKK hostilities as “martyrs” and the crowd chanted “Allahu Akbar!” in return.

He said the “hearts [of the Turkish people] are today united the same way they were” when the Ottoman Empire fought European powers in 1915 and when Turkish Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople.

He also said Turkey is defending “true civilisation” in the face of Europe’s “xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism”.

About 1,500 anti-Erdogan protesters held a parallel rally in the French city.

The activists chanted “murderer Erdogan!”, “thief Erdogan!”, and called for “an end to Erdogan's dictatorship”.

The chants referred to his violent crackdown on the moderate, pro-Kurdish, and pro-reform HDP party.

They also referred to his crackdown on media and judges involved in exposing high-level corruption in Ankara.

The Turkish leader, later on Sunday, held a second meeting outside his hotel in Place Stephanie, in central Brussels.

Up to 3,000 Turkish supporters, from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, greeted him with rose petals, balloons, special t-shirts, and music.

His speech was softer, urging Europe to shelter war refugees and calling on diaspora Turks to vote in upcoming Turkish elections.

He spoke from a double-decker bus covered in a flag, after city authorities declined to let him hire a concert hall on grounds the venue shouldn't be used for political campaigns.

He also released two white doves.

The rallies came ahead of his meetings, on Monday, with the heads of the EU institutions and, separately, with the King of Belgium.

The EU wants him to help stop refugees coming, by boat, via Turkey to Greece.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, a German newspaper, and ARD, a leading TV broadcaster, report that the European Commission wants Turkey to build new refugee camps and to launch joint Greek-Turkish border patrols.

They said the EU plan envisages new camps for 2 million people, more European aid money, and a pledge to take in 500,000 more asylum seekers.

EU officials told EUobserver Erdogan is unlikely to agree new measures on Monday.

But they hope the EU-Turkey talks will pave the way for concrete action in time for the EU's next summit, in mid-October.

EU diplomats also note Erdogan is using his European tour to drum up support for his AKP party ahead of a snap parliametary election on 1 November.

The AKP is seeking a big enough majority to alter the Turkish constitution to give Erdogan’s office more power.

But rising support for the HDP thwarted its ambitions in a previous vote in June.

Turkish voters snub Erdogan

The AKP party has lost its majority in Turkey, putting the brakes on president Erdogan’s plan to consolidate power.

EU unveils Turkey migration plan

The Commission has unveiled a plan on how to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey, including extra funds and a joint crackdown on smugglers.

EU courts Turkey ahead of summit

EU leaders will discuss ways to get Turkey's help on stemming the flow of refugees at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

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