European Union foreign ministers on Monday (March 6) urged restraint towards Turkey as some said they opposed campaigning by foreign politicians on their soil, stepping into a row that has soured relations between Ankara and Berlin.
On Sunday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan accused Germany of “fascist actions” in cancelling rallies aimed at drumming up support among 1.5 million Turks living there who are eligible to vote in a referendum on extending his powers.
“I condemn the reaction of Mr. Erdogan, it’s a nonsense to say that about Germany and to refer to an old period of time. It’s not the reality now in Germany, and we are sure of that, but again about the situation on the ground, we will see if there are some requests. Until now we didn’t receive any, but it will be a decision of the municipality on the basis of the security report to do something on it,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on arriving for talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
Ties between Turkey and the EU are strained over a number of issues related to human rights and the rule of law, including Erdogan’s treatment of dissenters, critical media and the country’s Kurdish community.
But Turkey is also a NATO ally and has agreed to a deal to block migrants from Syria and other Middle Eastern pressure points from leaving its shores, providing relief for EU governments under growing public pressure to stem immigration.
German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, due to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Berlin on Wednesday, told reporters told reporters the two countries had a responsibility to normalize a “clearly strained” relationship.
The arrest in Turkey of a Turkish-German journalist has fueled public outrage over the rallies, at which Turkish ministers were to urge a “Yes” vote in the April 16 referendum.
Turkish authorities have sought to hold a similar gathering in the Netherlands which also has a sizeable Turkish community.
The Dutch government said on Friday it was against plans for a rally in Rotterdam, saying it would inform Ankara of its opposition to the “undesirable” move.
“Well, obviously there is a lot of verbal aggression which I don’t really understand. Of course we understand there is a campaign in Turkey, you can think about that referendum whatever you like, but we think, in my country, the Netherlands, we shouldn’t export the issues of Turkey into the Netherlands. People can have campaigns, but I don’t think it’s a good idea when ministers come to the Netherlands,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said.
Berlin says the rallies in Germany were cancelled on security grounds.