BERLIN // Turkey on Tuesday cancelled all future campaign appearances by its politicians in Germany ahead of April’s referendum on expanding president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, amid a heated diplomatic row.
It came a day after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany could issue a blanket ban against future campaign events by Turkish politicians unless Ankara halted its Nazi insults.
Such comments were “breaking every taboo, without consideration for the suffering of those who were persecuted and murdered” by the Nazis, she said.
The sudden decision by Ankara came after three weeks of furious exchanges between Turkey and the European Union over the pro-Erdogan rallies which were banned in some of the bloc’s member states.
“All future events that were planned have been cancelled. That is a decision that was made in Ankara,” said a Cologne-based spokeswoman for Mr Erdogan’s AKP party.
Turkish ministers eager to tap into 1.4 million voters in Germany have sought to campaign in Europe’s most populous country to whip up support for a “yes” vote in the April 16 referendum on scrapping the prime minister’s post and creating a executive presidency.
However, several were recently rebuffed when German local and state authorities blocked the rallies, citing logistical reasons.
After explicitly saying such campaign appearances were not welcome, The Netherlands refused to allow foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s plane landing rights and expelled another envoy who had travelled in by road.
Ankara reacted with fury, with Mr Erdogan accusing Germany and The Netherlands of “Nazi” practices, sparking uproar in Europe.
The European Union official overseeing the bloc’s expansion efforts said on Tuesday that Turkish membership will become “more and more unrealistic” unless Ankara changes course soon.
EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn told Germany's Bild daily that "with regard to the strict accession criteria, Turkey has been moving further and further away from the EU for some time".
“If it doesn’t change course quickly, membership will indeed become more and more unrealistic,” he warned.
On Tuesday, a senior ally of Mrs Merkel said Mr Erdogan has crossed a line by comparing Berlin’s government to the Nazis and is no longer welcome in Germany.
The rebuke from Volker Bouffier, vice chairman of the Chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, reflects growing exasperation over Mr Erdogan’s assertions that Germany and other European powers were using Nazi tactics by banning Turkish political rallies in their territories.
“Enough is enough,” said Mr Bouffier. “Mr Erdogan and his government are not welcome in our country, and that must be now be understood,” he said.
* Agence France-Presse and Reuters