EghtesadOnline: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan likened Germany’s cancellation of public appearances by two of his ministers to Nazi practices, aggravating frictions that had already flared over Turkey’s human rights record.
Germany’s decision has “nothing to do with democracy,” Erdogan said at an event in Istanbul on Sunday, state news agency Anadolu reported. “Recent practices are no different from the Nazi ones of the past.” The German government press office didn’t immediately respond to calls seeking comment, but Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union parliamentary leader, Volker Kauder, responded to Erdogan’s Nazi references in Berlin Sunday evening, according to Bloomberg.
“It’s an incredible and unacceptable turn of events that a leader of a NATO country talks this way about another NATO country, especially one who has considerable problems with the rule of law,” Kauder said in an ARD television interview.
Ties between Turkey and Germany, as well as the rest of the European Union, have been strained over Erdogan’s sweeping crackdown on opponents following the failed attempt to topple him in July. The Ankara government has jailed a German-Turkish reporter whom Erdogan described as a spy, and is pressing Germany to extradite fugitive Turkish military officers involved in the coup attempt.
New tensions emerged on Thursday after the municipality of Gaggenau in southwest Germany revoked its permission for Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag to campaign for a planned April referendum to expand Erdogan’s powers, citing concerns of overcrowding. Bozdag canceled his trip and a scheduled meeting with his German counterpart.
Erdogan “is only thinking about pushing through his presidential system and his reaction shows that he’s worried he could lose” the referendum in Turkey, Kauder said.
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci’s planned address on Sunday to a Turkish community in the western city of Cologne also was canceled by local authorities, who cited security concerns. Zeybekci traveled to Germany to attend another event.
Turkey and European states have mutual interests beyond trade.
Erdogan and the EU last March forged a deal to stem the flow of refugees entering Greece via the Aegean, with Turkey agreeing to take back people turned away. The uneasy accord that helped ease the trade bloc’s refugee crisis is unlikely to be upended by Erdogan amid new tensions with Germany, according to its Austrian partner.
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said Turkey’s public finances are too dependent on foreign investment for Erdogan to risk rescinding the agreement.
While Erdogan launches verbal brickbats, the EU “has every reason” to stand up to the Turkish politician, Kern said Sunday in a newspaper interview.
Kern called for EU membership talks with Turkey to be terminated after it distanced itself from democratic standards and the principles of rule of law, and called on the EU to rethink billions of euros in aid intended to promote Turkey’s membership campaign.
The European Union is a critical trade partner for Turkey, taking 47 percent of its total exports in January. Germany was the No. 1 export destination for Turkish goods, accounting for 10 percent of exports, according to Turkey’s official statistics agency.