Supporters and foes gathered in Strasbourg on Sunday (4 October) on the occasion of a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has apparently turned his European tour into part of his election campaign.
About 12,000 people from the Turkish diaspora in France, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland turned out to see Erdo?an speak at what he called an “anti-terrorism” rally in Strasbourg.
The Turkish president was in Strasbourg as part of a series of rallies being held in Europe under the slogan “Millions of breaths, one voice against terror,” ostensibly to denounce a recent rise in terrorist attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
But many also came to protest.
A total of 57 civil society organizations participated in the demonstration, which was organized by the Federation of Alevi Unions in France (FUAF) and the Federation of Alevi Unions in Germany (AABF).
Protesters shouted slogans such as “Murderer Erdogan,” “Thief Tayyip Erdogan,” “Erdogan, go away,” “Erdogan, resign,” “Be careful, the thief has come” and “An end to Erdogan’s dictatorship.”
Turkey will hold early elections on 1 November, after the last election held on 7 June resulted in a hung parliament.
In Brussels, where Erdogan will meet with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today, the city’s authorities refused the president use of 18,000-seat arena. Instead, Erdogan had to address a much smaller crowd outside his hotel, on top of a double-deck tourist bus.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 gathered in Place Stephanie on Sunday night, according to local police estimates, waving Turkish flags and launching helium-filled balloons with Erdo?an’s poster attached to them.
Many commentators have alleged that the anti-terror rallies are being exploited by Erdo?an and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as a platform to garner votes for the AK Party.
Opposition groups in Turkey have long criticised Erdogan’s rallies, claiming that he is openly violating Article 103 of the Constitution, which details the president’s oath and clearly states that the holder of the post must assure the public that he or she will remain impartial while performing his or her duties.
The European Commission and Turkey have agreed on a plan to stem the flow of refugees to Europe by patrolling Turkey’s frontier with Greece and setting up new camps, a newspaper cited sources in the Commission and the German government as saying yesterday.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said that according to the plan, Turkey would be obliged to better protect the border that many migrants have crossed on perilous boat journeys to reach EU territory.
It said the Turkish and Greek coastguards would work together to patrol the eastern Aegean, coordinated by Frontex, the European Union’s border control agency, and send all refugees back to Turkey.
In Turkey, six new refugee camps, for up to two million people, would be set up, partly financed by the EU, the newspaper said.
Member states would commit to taking some of the refugees, so that up to half a million people could be relocated to Europe without having to use traffickers, or take the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, the newspaper said.
However a senior EU official involved in the negotiations with Turkey told Reuters that the newspaper report went beyond what was currently under discussion between Brussels and Ankara.
“It’s a bit exaggerated,” he said.