European cities scramble to stop Turkish referendum rallies
Thomas Escritt, Shadia Nasralla, Reuters, Mar 10 2017
ROTTERDAM/VIENNA – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will not be allowed to campaign for votes among expat Turks during a visit to Rotterdam on Saturday, the mayor of the Dutch port said, joining a growing list of European cities that have blocked such rallies. Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters:
He has diplomatic immunity and everything so we will treat him with respect, but we have other instruments to prohibit things happening in public spaces.
Four planned Turkish political meetings in Austria and one in Switzerland were also canceled, in the latest signs of unease across Europe over Turkey’s efforts to rally support for Pres Erdogan in the run-up to an Apr 16 referendum on granting him extensive new powers. The row over campaigning among the large Turkish communities in Europe has exacerbated existing tensions. Erdogan has compared the cancellation of rallies in Germany with Nazi tactics. Merkel said on Thursday that such comments were ‘unworthy’ and must stop. A panel of legal experts at the Council of Europe said on Friday:
The proposed constitutional changes will be a dangerous step backwards for democracy, granting the president the power to dissolve parliament on any grounds whatsoever, which is fundamentally alien to democratic presidential systems.
The legal opinion has no binding power over Turkey, which joined the 47-nation Council of Europe in 1950. Swiss police cited “significant security risks” for their decision to cancel a speech by a Turkish politician on Friday evening. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu is still looking for a new venue for an event on Sunday after one hotel near Zurich pulled out on security grounds and another in Winterthur was rejected as inappropriate. A call by Zurich’s security chief for Cavusoglu to be barred from speaking there has been rejected by the Swiss government. The Austrian town of Hoerbranz canceled an event with a former Turkish minister, saying the organizers had falsely labeled it as a book presentation. Other events were scrapped in Linz, Herzogenburg and Wiener Neustadt. Austria’s interior minister said on Tuesday he wanted to change the law to permit a ban on foreign officials making speeches in the country if human rights or public order are threatened, but the bill has not reached parliament yet.
Erdogan Gives Germany a Public Slap Across the Face
Dmitri Sedov, Strategic Culture, Mar 9 2017
The things European politicians have had to listen to from Pres Erdoğan! Over the 14 years of his administration, this charismatic Turkish leader has managed to tally up a long list of the sins committed by the EU and has often promised to make the EU pay a price for each of them. European politicians have not yet recovered from the spiritual traumas he inflicted on them with his insults last year. Erdoğan had a very blunt reaction to their condemnation of his harsh suppression of last year’s coup attempt in Ankara. And the Germans got their comeuppance for the resolution passed by their Bundestag recognizing the Armenian genocide from the early 20th century. And then a new bomb went off. Now the Turkish president has overreached himself, and the Germans were once again the first to fall into his cross-hairs. Germany’s leaders have been accused of acting like Nazis! Last Sunday, Erdoğan assembled thousands of people at a rally in Istanbul, where he told them:
I’m going to get the whole world stirred up! Germany, you’re nothing like a democracy, and you should know that what you’re doing now is no different from the Nazi practices of the past! You lecture us about democracy, but then you won’t let our ministers speak there! We will discuss Germany’s actions in an international forum, and we will shame you in the eyes of the whole world! We don’t want to see Nazis in Germany anymore! We thought that was a bygone era, but apparently it isn’t! I’ll go to Germany when I want, and if you don’t let me in, I’ll make the world rise to its feet!
This whole uproar arose because of the Turkish referendum scheduled for Apr 16 on the transition from parliamentary to presidential rule. The idea of the referendum does not enjoy widespread support in Turkey, where many believe that Erdoğan is seeking to consolidate his own power. In the run-up to the referendum, the sizable Turkish diaspora in Europe holds quite an important position. They maintain close ties with their native land and fuel the opposition within the country. Future voters in the referendum include the 1.5 million German Turks. There are about six million ethnic Turks of varying legal statuses who live in the EU and they, like most other Muslims, are largely unassimilated. A new generation of ‘Turkish Europeans’ has grown up and entered politics. In Germany, one of the leaders of the Green Party is Cem Özdemir, who is the son of Turkish immigrants, and other popular politicians are making a name for themselves. The Bundestag already has a total of 11 deputies of Turkish descent. Erdogan’s desire to win over the Turkish diaspora in Europe is easy to understand, and suddenly Turkish ministers are showing up in EU countries, urging the local Turkish population to say ‘yes’ to the proposed constitutional reform. Europeans are not enthusiastic about the upcoming changes to Turkey’s constitutional framework, and endlessly wring their hands over the human rights picture there. Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has urged a Europe-wide ban on campaigning by Turkish politicians. Austria and the Netherlands have already declared such visits undesirable. In Germany, local governments decide whether Turkish officials may speak publicly, but Berlin has also taken measures to ensure that a number of speeches have been canceled. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel stated:
Those who want to speak here… must respect our rules. The rules of the law and equally the laws of decency. And moderation is part of mutual respect.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was prohibited from speaking in Baden-Württemberg out of «security concerns», and an address by the minister of the economy, Nihat Zeybekçi, was banned in Cologne and Frechen. These measures also prompted an outburst of indignation from Erdoğan, who then flung the accusation of resurrecting the Nazi regime right in Germany’s face. Angela Merkel is responding with her customary silence, but her fellow party members are on a tear. Speaking on ARD’s main television channel, the leader of parliament’s CDU faction, Volker Kauder, stated:
It’s incredible and unacceptable for the president of a NATO country to speak this way about another member country, especially someone who has significant problems with the rule of law. … If we hear such statements again, our reaction must make it clear that we do not tolerate this on German soil.
And the deputy chairwoman of the CDU, Julia Klöckner, told the Bild newspaper:
Mr Erdogan is reacting like a defiant child who cannot have his way. The Nazi comparison takes overkill to new heights. This is shameless.
Germans were outraged when Erdoğan accused Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel of representing the interests of the PKK, and when he claimed that German authorities were abetting international terrorism by banning speeches by Turkish officials in Germany. Moreover, the Turkish minister of foreign affairs, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said that Turkish politicians will continue to speak publicly in Germany:
None of you can stop us! We can go anywhere we want and meet our citizens!
Germans are traditionally not tolerant of such behavior. German umbrage is growing. The tone, as often happens, is being set by the Bavarians. Joachim Herrmann, the interior minister of Bavaria said:
I vehemently disapprove of Turkish election campaigning on German soil!
Germany’s well-oiled propaganda machine could respond to Erdoğan very effectively, but Merkel is unlikely to do this. Turkey’s position in NATO and the legion of refugees in Germany are simple facts that must be faced. It is unlikely that any signal will be given for a counter-attack, which will be a new PR blow for Merkel in an election year.