German state Saarland seeks to ban Turkish political rallies

Germany's Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

The governor of German state Saarland says that she wants to prevent Turkish government officials from holding political rallies there before Turkey’s constitutional referendum.

Governor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a statement that she would use “all opportunities” to prevent such rallies, adding that “Turkish domestic conflicts have no place in Germany. Campaign appearances that threaten the domestic peace in our country should be banned.”

The move would mirror a similar move by the Netherlands that has stoked tensions between Turkey and Western Europe. So far, Germany’s federal government has said that it won’t impose a blanket ban on members of the Turkish government holding political rallies in the country.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who faces a state election on March 26, is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union. It’s unclear whether Turkish officials had any plans to campaign in Saarland, a small state on the French border.

Meanwhile, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said his country needs no “extra tuition” from Turkey on fighting terrorism or countering the activities of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday renewed accusations that Germany supported “terrorists” battling Turkey. De Maiziere noted Tuesday that the PKK is banned in Germany and “we don’t tolerate terrorism, including by the PKK.” He added that “Any leads from Turkey on such activities in Germany that are usable in court are very welcome — but we don’t need extra tuition on how to deal with fighting PKK terrorism that is supported and organized from Germany.”

De Maiziere said that “Turkey itself remains an important partner for us in the fight against international terrorism.”

Germany’s interior minister has also appealed to residents of Turkish origin not to regard people who disagree with them as traitors, Nazis, terrorists or enemies of Turkey. De Maiziere said on Tuesday that “We will not tolerate it if representatives of other states try to position whole groups of the population against the country in which they have lived freely for many years or since their birth, where they work, go to school, bring up their children, in which they are at home.”

Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan accused Germany of “Nazi practices” after local authorities blocked appearances by Turkish officials campaigning ahead of a referendum on giving Erdoğan more extensive powers. That drew a rebuke from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. De Maiziere said that “We should not endanger the integration successes of the last decades for a short-term, questionable success.”

Erdoğan has also called Germany and the Netherlands “bandit states” that are harming the European Union. His remarks came amid Turkey’s growing tensions with the two countries over Turkish ministers’ plans to hold campaign meetings there.

In an address to health sector workers that was televised live on Tuesday, Erdoğan said the two countries’ reluctance to let Turkish ministers attend political rallies there was diminishing the EU as a symbol of laws, human rights and freedoms.

“Europe is too important a continent to be abandoned to the mercy of the bandit states,” said Erdoğan and added that Turkey would seek the help of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other organizations to intensify the fight against what he called hatred against foreigners, racism and anti-Islam trends.

Turkey’s relations with Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have been strained over these countries’ refusal to allow Turkish government officials to hold rallies there ahead of the public referendum in Turkey in April.

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 on a constitutional reform package that will introduce an executive presidency in the country if approved.

Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have canceled scheduled events to be participated in by Turkish ministers, usually out of security concerns.

A large number of Turkish citizens or people of Turkish origin live in these countries, and Turkish citizens living abroad have the right to vote in elections and referenda.

Turkey is a candidate to join the EU, although the membership negotiations have made little progress over the past decade. The country has become a vital partner in a deal with the EU to curb the passage of migrants and refugees from Turkey into Europe.

March 14, 2017




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