In one of the first reactions from Ankara to the Dutch election result, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, warned that Europe was heading towards the abyss and that ‘holy wars’ would soon begin on the continent – this coming despite the fact that nationalist Geert Wilders, a vocal critic of Islam, was pushed into second place by the center right Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.
Çavuşoğlu, who has been addressing Turkish crowds across Europe ahead of a constitutional referendum in Turkey next month, was refused permission to land in Holland for a campaign rally on Saturday, sparking a heated diplomatic row and street protests which dominated the final days of the Dutch election campaign.
The dramatic war of words, which saw Ankara accuse the Dutch government of ‘fascism’ and of being a ‘Nazi remnant’, has grown in recent days to include other Western European nations which have restricted Turkish political rallies on their soil, most notably Austria and Germany, but also Denmark and Switzerland.
Recent months have seen mass demonstrations and rallies, with seas of red ‘star and crescent’ flags greeting Turkish ministers campaigning in Europe on behalf of their government’s referendum proposal. The sheer size of some rallies has caused unease, highlighting the scale of Europe’s burgeoning foreign populations and offering a glimpse of the continent’s demographic future.
Of the millions of Turks living in Europe, some five million – many of them dual citizens – are eligible to vote in the referendum, set for April 16th, which seeks to significantly increase the powers of authoritarian Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Speaking at a rally east of Istanbul just hours after his foreign minister’s controversial comments, Erdoğan accused the EU of launching an anti-Islamic ‘crusade’ between the Christian cross and the Muslim crescent, referring to Tuesday’s ruling by the EU Court of Justice which would allow employers to prohibit political and religious symbols in the workplace, including the wearing of the Islamic veil.
‘They have commenced a struggle between the cross and crescent. There is no other explanation than this. I am saying this clearly – Europe is heading toward the days just before World War II,’ Erdoğan stated in combative tone.
Following on from comments by his foreign minister earlier this week, Erdoğan again threatened to end the year-old migrant deal signed between the EU and Turkey, which could see millions of migrants flood into Europe from Turkey via Greece and Bulgaria.
Of some six million migrants seeking to enter Europe from countries surrounding the Mediterranean, an estimated three million are currently waiting in Turkey, according to a leaked German intelligence report published last month, a figure Erdoğan is fond of raising in negotiations with the EU.