Is Bashing Europe Erdogan’s Winning Ticket Ahead of Turkey’s Referendum?

Is Bashing Europe Erdogan’s Winning Ticket Ahead of Turkey’s Referendum?
Turkish flags and posters of Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a rally in support of a referendum on constitutional reforms, Istanbul, April 8, 2017 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

It is not very often that a candidate country admonishes the organization it wants to join. Yet that is the story in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gone on a series of tirades against the Netherlands, Germany and the European Union at large ahead of a referendum this weekend on constitutional changes that would grant Erdogan more powers and transform Turkey’s government from a parliamentary to a presidential system. Turkey has been stuck in accession talks with the EU for over a decade.

Erdogan’s anti-EU streak began with attacks early last month against the Netherlands, which he called a “banana republic” and a “Nazi remnant,” while claiming it was somehow responsible for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Erdogan was livid at the Dutch government’s decision to ban a political rally by Turkish immigrants in Rotterdam in support of the constitutional referendum. The Hague also denied entry to a plane carrying the Turkish foreign minister to the rally and expelled another Turkish minister who was already in the Netherlands.

With the referendum approaching, Turkey’s diplomatic clash with the EU shows no signs of abating. Erdogan continues to bash Europe ahead of Sunday’s vote, stoking nationalist sentiment in a familiar campaign tactic. He recently went as far as to threaten that if his ministers are disrespected, Europeans will be unable “to walk in the streets with peace and safety in any place in the world.”

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