Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again raised the rhetoric against Europe, indicating he will reassess his country’s bid to join the European Union and saying Europe “will pay for what they have done” against the Turkish people.
In a speech on April 9 in Izmir, Erdogan said the EU bid will be back “on the table” after the April 16 Turkish constitutional referendum that if successful will sharply increase his ruling powers.
Erdogan referred to Europe as a “sick man” – the slur European politicians used to describe the collapsing Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.
Erdogan, who cofounded the conservative Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP), became prime minister in 2003, serving until 2014, when he was elected president.
He has a stated goal of turning Turkey into a presidential republic from a parliamentary-based government. That is the issue on the upcoming referendum.
Erdogan claims the move is necessary to establish political stability in the country.
Critics, many in the West, say it will place too much power into one person’s hands. They have also criticized Erdogan's crackdown on the opposition following the failed coup of July 2016.
Erdogan’s latest feud with Europe came after many EU countries barred Turkish politicians from holding prereferendum rallies in European cities.
Many EU countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Austria, have large Turkish expat populations that were eligible to vote in the referendum up to a April 9 deadline.
In his Izmir speech, Erdogan said Turks living in Europe were being "oppressed" and "humiliated."
"Europe will pay for what they have done. God willing, the question of the European Union will again be on the table after April 16," Erdogan said.
"They said a century ago that we were the 'sick man.' Now they are the 'sick man.' Europe is collapsing," he added.
The Turkish leader vowed to sign a law reinstating the death penalty in Turkey after the referendum, something that would automatically exclude his country’s entrance into the EU.
The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004 as part of its effort to gain EU membership.
Analysts have said the outcome of the referendum is still too close to call.