Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called on Turkey’s citizens in Europe to step up their rates of procreation and have five children each, saying a booming Turkish population would be the best answer to the EU’s “vulgarism, antagonism, and injustice”.
Nearly a week after a diplomatic row between erupted between Holland and Turkey, Mr Erdoğan continued what has become a daily ritual of hurling fresh antagonism towards Europe in front of cheering crowds of his conservative supporters.
Speaking in the central city of Eskişehir, Turkey’s president urged “his brothers and sisters in Europe” to begin a baby boom in their new countries. “Have not just three but five children,” he told his flag-waving audience.
“The place in which you are living and working is now your homeland and new motherland. Stake a claim to it. Open more businesses, enroll your children in better schools, make your family live in better neighborhoods, drive the best cars, live in the most beautiful houses.”
The message was addressed to the 1.4 million Turkish voters who live in Germany, as well as the large Turkish populations in Holland, Austria, Bulgaria and the UK.
Mr Erdoğan is in the midst of a closely-fought referendum campaign in which he is asking voters to grant him sweeping new powers that would potentially let him stay in office until 2029.
He appears to have decided that the diplomatic confrontation with Europe will help rally his base and found news ways to stoke the argument each day, from calling the Dutch government “Nazi remnants” to accusing Germany of harbouring terrorists.
His rhetoric has been amplified by the Turkish media, which is mostly supportive of the government.
The tabloid newspaper Güneş ran a front page cartoon of German chancellor Angela Merkel dressed in a Nazi uniform with the headline “Lady Hitler” on Friday, while Takvim republished a photograph of a Turkish man in Rotterdam being bitten by a Dutch police dog.
There are not yet any reliable polls ahead of the April 16 referendum, making it difficult to gauge whether his strategy of amplifying the confrontation with Europe is working.
But speaking in the snowy street of Eskişehir, his supporters said they were enraged by the treatment of Holland and other European countries which have stopped Turkish ministers from holding Yes vote rallies in their territory.
“The EU has lost us and they have lost big time,” said Necmettin Yildirim, a manager in a construction company who turned out for Mr Erdoğan’s rally. “With their behaviour they have lost a country as developed as Turkey.”
Turkish ministers have said several times in recent weeks they were thinking about tearing up a deal with the EU to stop migrants and refugees from Syria heading to Europe.
Germany’s government said Friday there was no sign that Turkey was actually letting people through and that it expected the deal to hold.