Germany on Sunday angrily warned Turkey that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had gone too far after he accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of using “Nazi measures” in an escalating diplomatic feud.
Turkey and the EU are locked in an explosive crisis that threatens to jeopardize Ankara’s bid to join the bloc, as tensions rise ahead of an April 16 referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.
The row erupted after authorities in Germany and other EU states refused to allow some Turkish ministers to campaign for a “yes” vote on their soil, provoking a volcanic response from the Turkish strongman who said the spirit of Nazi Germany was rampant in Europe.
“When we call them Nazis, they [Europe] get uncomfortable. They rally together in solidarity. Especially Merkel,” Erdogan said in a televised speech on Sunday.
“But you are right now employing Nazi measures,” Erdogan said referring to Merkel, pointedly using the informal “you” in Turkish.
“Against who? My Turkish brother citizens in Germany and brother ministers” who planned to hold campaign rallies for a “yes” vote in the referendum, he said.
German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel said Erdogan’s comments were “shocking.”
“We are tolerant, but we’re not stupid,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. “That’s why I have let my Turkish counterpart know very clearly that a boundary has been crossed here.”
The vice president of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Julia Kloeckner, also reacted angrily to the comments.
“Has Mr Erdogan lost his mind?” she said, telling journalists she was urging the EU to freeze “financial aid amounting to billions of euros” to Turkey.
Home to 1.4 million Turkish voters, Germany hosts the world’s largest Turkish diaspora, but the partnership between NATO allies Ankara and Berlin has been ripped to shreds by the current crisis.
Turkey reacted furiously to a rally in Frankfurt on Saturday urging a “no” vote, where protesters brandished insignia of outlawed Kurdish rebels, accusing Germany of double standards.
“Yesterday [Saturday], Germany put its name under another scandal,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told CNN-Turk.
He said the German ambassador had been summoned although this was not confirmed by Berlin.
The Turkish foreign ministry accused the German authorities “of the worst example of double standards” for allowing the pro-Kurdish protest while preventing Turkish ministers from campaigning there.