The European Commission has reacted to the diplomatic row between the Netherlands and Turkey by calling on Ankara to ‘refrain’ from statements and actions that will make the situation worse.
The commission’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and regional policy commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a joint statement on Monday that following the tensions between Turkey and some EU member states, ‘it is essential to avoid further escalation and find ways to calm down the situation.’
‘Decisions with regard to the holding of meetings and rallies in member states are a matter for the member state concerned,’ the commissioners said, referring to the Dutch decision to ban two Turkish ministers from addressing rallies at the weekend.
‘The European Union calls on Turkey to refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation. Matters of concern can only be resolved through open and direct communication channels.’
This is the first time Brussels has responded to the crisis, which erupted on Saturday when the Netherlands said it would deny access to two Turkish ministers who wanted to rally support for a referendum giving greater powers to Erdogan.
The decision to ban the ministers came after Ankara threatened the Netherlands with sanctions and said the country was showing the ‘remnants of Nazism’.
Deputy chairman Frans Timmermans, speaking in an interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS, said that president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s likening of the Dutch to Nazis is ‘unacceptable’. Erdogan’s rhetoric in recent days has gone too far, Timmermans said
German chancellor Angela Merkel has also said the Turkish description of the Netherlands as being fascist and racist are ‘completely unacceptable’ and has pledged full support to the Netherlands, NOS said.
According to German broadcaster ZDF, some 30 meetings about the referendum are set to take place in Germany ahead of the April 16 vote and ministers are divided about whether or not to let them go ahead.
Nato chairman Jens Stoltenberg has urged all member states to stay calm and show respect, news agency Reuters reported.
‘Robust debate is at the heart of our democracies but so is mutual respect,’ Stoltenberg told reporters. ‘I would encourage all allies to show mutual respect, to be calm and have a measured approach…it’s important that we now focus on everything that unites us.’