Row over AKP rallies in Europe escalates

In the row over cancelled appearances of Turkish politicians in Germany Turkey's President Erdoğan has accused the German authorities of using Nazi practices. Some journalists harshly condemn Erdoğan's provocations and say the president has gone too far. Pro-government Turkish media angrily counter that flimsy excuses are being used in Germany to prevent AKP politicians from campaigning.

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Star (TR) / 08 March 2017

Psychological battle against Turkey

Berlin will stop at nothing to prevent the AKP's referendum rallies in Germany, the pro-government daily Star rails:

“It seems that the German authorities are continuing their psychological warfare by systematically closing locations where Turkey's justice and economy ministers are scheduled to hold speeches. ... If Germany or any other country wanted to ban all election rallies for reasons having to do with domestic security, it would perhaps be understandable. But the fact that some terrorist organisations and Erdoğan opponents are being given permission to stage rallies and even receiving support for their No campaigns while only Yes events are banned for strange reasons like 'the room's fire safety provisions were insufficient', and the responsibility for this is then given to the municipality as if the [Turkish] partner didn't understand a thing doesn't testify to a clever strategy but to crass aggression.”

Phileleftheros (CY) / 07 March 2017

Just who is moving towards fascism here?

Erdoğan's criticism and Nazi accusations against Germany are utterly inappropriate, Phileleftheros argues:

“People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, as the saying goes. Erdoğan is being brash, provocative and totally unfair when he says that Germany is behaving like a fascist state. It's not Germany's prisons that are filled with dissidents, but Turkey's. It's not in Germany that every voice that dares to say the truth is silenced, but in Turkey. It's not Germany that wants to change its constitution because it wants a strongman in charge, but Turkey. The Turkish president is used to acting like a ruffian and getting his way. He believes that he can achieve all his objectives with threats and empty words, forgetting that he's in a constitutional state. He may accuse Germany of Nazi practices but the truth is that he's the one who's forcing his country down the path of authoritarianism and fascism.”

Artı Gerçek (TR) / 06 March 2017

Ankara's double standard

Ankara's stance in the dispute over the cancelled rallies is extremely hypocritical, the anti-government web platform criticises:

“The fact that Erdoğan used the world 'Nazi' in his speech on Sunday is a diplomatic scandal. ... And that the justice minister, who with each new statement proves that although he is not particularly skilled in the area of judicial culture he is a master of double standards, has described a practice routinely used in Turkey as 'fascist' now that it has been applied in Germany, is a disaster. Those who had requested the conference room in Germany concealed the fact that the minister was to hold a speech there and tried to pretend that the propaganda was a commemorative ceremony for [popular musician] Özay Gönlüm. ... President Erdoğan's accusations that the German state was assisting and inciting terror and his calls for it to be prosecuted for this were no doubt perceived less as a political statement than a Freudian slip.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) / 07 March 2017

Integrated Turks immune to propaganda

Instead of talking about whether to ban rallies Germany's politicians should do more to encourage the integration of Turks living in Germany, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung argues, pointing out that their life in a parallel society makes them attractive for Erdoğan as potential voters:

“Certainly, there are many arguments in favour of the constitutional reform in Turkey that would strengthen Erdoğan's worrying grip on power failing. Nevertheless it is not up to Germany to try to influence this outcome. More promising than cat-and-mouse games or a ban, which could run counter to the German Basic Law, would be progress on integration policy. Such advances could lead Turkish immigrants to identify more strongly with the values of freedom, democracy and human rights - and hence with Germany. That would help to make them immune to unwelcome attempts at exerting influence on the part of a foreign authoritarian leader.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) / 07 March 2017

Fight with arguments, not with bans

AKP politicians also want to appear at rallies in the Netherlands, and the Dutch government is currently studying all the legal means for preventing a rally with the Turkish foreign minister. NRC Handelsblad opposes such steps:

“The freedom of opinion and the right of assembly are anchored in the Dutch constitution. We may not like what supporters of the Turkish constitutional reform are saying, but that's no reason to ban their rallies in the Netherlands. Unless, that is, they pose a threat to public order. But for now that's not the case. ... Of course the direction Turkey's democracy is taking is worrying - the country is still an EU accession candidate. But it can only be countered with arguments, and not by artificially banning democratic rights.”

Der Standard (AT) / 06 March 2017

Rally ban would be a gift to Erdoğan

European democracies must grin and bear rallies attended by Turkish ministers, Der Standard writes:

“We should commit ourselves to the standards we've set for ourselves and guarantee the freedom of speech and opinion as long as no laws are broken. And if they are we must be strong enough to draw the consequences, even if they're unpleasant. We'll have to go that route, even if it gives us headaches. At least we have the legal instruments in place. A new, EU-wide ban for Turkish politicians would hardly reduce Ankara's pressure on individual countries - Germany, for example -, and instead would weaken the Union as a whole. Because a ban aimed at Turkey would merely help to justify President Erdoğan's narrative. He'd see the attack as aimed at him personally, as well as at his nation. And he'd say that although the EU preaches the rule of law, when push comes to shove it doesn't take it all that seriously. A ban would be a gift to him.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) / 06 March 2017

Turkish Germans as fifth column?

The rally ban for Turkish politicians in Europe is justified even if it represents a curtailment of free speech, Lidové noviny concludes:

“It should make us wary when Turkey's President Erdoğan starts posturing as a defender of that freedom and accusing Germany of Nazi practices. Perhaps he is counting on a reaction from the multicultural elites in Germany who have a weakness for 'people with a migration background'. The basic question is where the boundary lies between freedom of speech for politicians and inadmissible campaigning on the territory of a sovereign state. … If President Erdoğan continues to target German-Turks as his voters he will reinforce the impression among Europeans that this group - and Muslims in general - are a kind of fifth column.”

Večernji list (HR) / 06 March 2017

Turkish president has Merkel over a barrel

Germany is not in a position to respond more resolutely to Erdoğan's provocations, Večernji list explains:

“Merkel isn't bothered by the Nazi accusations coming from Turkey. She's far more worried that Erdoğan might decide to allow the 3.5 million refugees to leave Turkey and head for Europe. Another wave of refugees could cost her her re-election and push the EU to the brink of collapse. … Erdoğan now wants to visit Germany in person. If he isn't allowed to, he will do everything he can to destabilise Merkel, Germany and the EU. Perhaps this is the reason why neither Germany nor the EU have taken serious action to ensure that human rights and press freedom are respected in Turkey. … We may all end up paying a heavy price for the combination of European timidity and laxness and Erdoğan's shrewdness and brazen resolve.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) / 02 March 2017

Rifts are deepening

Banning referendum rallies with AKP ministers in Germany is short-sighted, Deutschlandfunk comments:

“Turkey's domestic conflicts have long since become an issue in Germany - along with all those of Turkish origin who live here. Of course many democrats among them will feel offended by rallies aimed at reinforcing autocratic structures in Turkey. However there are also those who support these rallies. And the rifts will only become deeper and the conflicts escalate if they are reinforced in their belief that decisions to allow or cancel such rallies are taken in a one-sided fashion. ... In recent months the German government has often been unclear regarding Turkey. In this point, however, government spokesperson Steffen Seibert is right: anyone who criticises restrictions on the freedom of opinion in Turkey must be ready to uphold this freedom in Germany - to the extent that the law allows.”

Star (TR) / 03 March 2017

Xenophobia instead of dialogue

The cancellation of a rally in Gaggenau where the Turkish justice minister was to speak shows that Berlin is shifting to the right in the election campaign, the pro-government paper Star believes:

“Germany is being flooded by uncontrolled migration. This situation threatens to sap the German economy at the same time as radical nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise in the country. ... Merkel could try to use the topic of immigration in particular to find solutions with Turkey. Turkey's accession process could have advantages for both sides regarding the EU's financial and personnel resources. But she's not trying. On the contrary, instead of striking out on a new path, she herself has been moving in the direction of ultra-nationalism, introversion and protectionism, tapping into the potential offered by the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Hence the mentality of the AfD has already infiltrated the government. And Merkel's challenger Schulz is doing the same thing on the left.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) / 24 February 2017

Don't stoop to the same level

Germany can't demand that freedom of the press and freedom of assembly be respected in Turkey while at the same time telling the Turkish president to shut up, Deutschlandfunk warns:

“We cannot and should not fight the autocrat in Ankara with his own weapons. We must counter him with the openness of democracy. We can put our hopes in the Turkish community in Germany which has announced that it will urge people to say no in the referendum. We cannot expect much from the chancellor. Angela Merkel will do anything to avoid jeopardising the refugee deal with Erdoğan so it's unlikely that much criticism will come from that quarter. … Nonetheless Merkel must react: Berlin cannot simply accept Turks being marginalised and intimidated in Germany or government-critical journalists being threatened and spied on here. It must respond with very clear words. We must let Erdoğan - the magician who is turning into a dictator - speak, but we mustn't let him make fools of us.”

Bild (DE) / 24 February 2017

Erdoğan should stay at home

The prospect of Erdoğan coming to Germany during his campaign is not at all appealing to Bild:

“The president wants to turn Turkey into an authoritarian state: the office of prime minister is to be abolished, the parliament weakened and Erdoğan to become far more powerful than he already is. That's the opposite of more democracy, and leads Turkey away from Europe. Erdoğan must not be allowed to campaign for this here in Germany! Just as other heads of state should not be allowed to campaign for votes from their own countrymen here, Turkey's domestic conflicts have no place in the German Federal Republic. Erdoğan would do better to stay at home and focus on the problems in his own country. He's got his hands full there.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) / 20 February 2017

Germany's cowardly stance is embarassing

The passiveness of the German government is a slap in the face for German-Turks who want nothing to do with politicians like Erdoğan and Yıldırım, Deutschlandfunk rails:

“Why on earth should these people want to openly declare their allegiance to Germany, how can they see themselves as truly part of this society, and which politicians can they believe in when the German government always adopts such a wishy-washy, cowardly stance vis-à-vis the Turkish government? Binali Yıldırım's conduct in Oberhausen was by no means the first display of testosterone-fuelled, platitude-laden behaviour on the part of an AKP politician in Germany. Let us all hope and work to ensure that it was the last.”

Daily Sabah (TR) / 21 February 2017

Berlin boycotting "yes" campaign

German Justice Minister Heiko Mass (SPD) has said that anyone wanting to take advantage of free speech in Germany must respect the rule of law and the freedom of the press. But the minister is far more tolerant of the "no" camp than of the "yes" camp, the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah complains:

“The minister is condoning 'no' campaigns above all in Saarland by outlawed PKK proponents, deputies from the PKK-linked Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). ... While other politicians besides the federal minister of justice are engaging in efforts to hinder the 'yes' campaigns in Germany, the calls for 'no' votes don't seem to bother anyone. Informal meetings encourage people to vote 'yes' in Germany have been banned, which is an impediment to people exercising their democratic rights. This is clearly anti-democratic interference in the upcoming referendum.”

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