Turkey eases Europe tensions by freezing contentious German rallies

Turkey eases Europe tensions by freezing contentious German rallies
Ankara has said it will end controversial pro-government campaign rallies in Germany, after a week of tensions between Turkey and its European allies.
2 min read
21 March, 2017
Ankara made the decision to cancel all rallies in Germany [Getty]

Turkish politicians will not end attend anymore highly controversial rallies in Germany, Ankara said on Tuesday, following a week of disputes with EU powers over the issue.

Turkish ministers had planned to attend pro-government rallies in European cities to encourage Turkish voters to back plans to extend President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers.

Ankara announced the cancellation of future appearances by ministers after disputes left Turkey and the European Union powers with locked horns.

Turkey has been attempting to win votes from European-Turkish citizens ahead of an April 16 referendum on scrapping the prime minister's post and creating an executive presidency.

"All future events that were planned have been cancelled. That is a decision that was made in Ankara," said a Cologne-based spokeswoman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP's) coordination office abroad.

While Germany is home to the largest Turkish diaspora in Europe, Turkish ministers have been eager to tap into overseas votes and planned to make campaign appearances to whip up support.

However, local and state authorities blocked the rallies, citing logistical and security reasons.

Ankara reacted with fury, with Erdogan accusing Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel of "Nazi" practices, sparking deep consternation in Berlin.

On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany could ban future campaign events by Turkish politicians on its soil unless Ankara stops "Nazi" jibes aimed at Berlin.

Merkel stressed that such insults must stop - "no ifs, no buts" - and that Germany reserved the right to "take all necessary measures, including reviewing the permissions" for campaign events it had already granted.

A stern-faced Merkel said such comments were "breaking every taboo, without consideration for the suffering of those who were persecuted and murdered" by the Nazis.

Other EU countries - including the Netherlands - have had similar rows with Turkey, a candidate country for membership in the bloc.

But relations with Turkey are especially important for Germany, which has been home to a large community of Turks since the "guest worker" ("Gastarbeiter") programme of the 1960s and 70s.

Over the past year Germany has also banked on an EU agreement with Turkey that has sharply reduced the influx of asylum seekers that has brought one million refugees and migrants to Germany since 2015.

However, bilateral ties have been put to the test, especially since last summer's failed coup aimed at ousting Erdogan.

Berlin has emerged as a strident critic of Ankara's vast crackdown since, which has seen more than 100,000 people arrested, suspended from their jobs or sacked for alleged links to the plotters or to Kurdish militants.