Turkey’s foreign minister on Thursday (30 January) demanded the European Parliament take action against a Greek deputy who ripped up a paper Turkish flag, branding him a “racist” and a “clown”.
Independent MEP Ioannis Lagos had told the parliament on Wednesday that Turkey was to blame for illegal migration flows into Greece.
“We have streams of migrants coming to my country. Here we have the Turkish flag,” he said, depicting a paper red flag featuring a white star and crescent.
“What can we do with this flag? You can tear it up,” Lagos said, before doing so and throwing it away.
Greek MP Ioannis Lagos tears up the Turkish flag at European Parliament during a session re: the large number of refugees on Greek islands: “Here we have the Turkish flag… What can you do with this flag? Well, you can tear it up.” pic.twitter.com/T78XUCLR60
— Samira Ghaderi (@Samira_Ghaderi) January 31, 2020
The flag is considered sacred to many Turks.
Anakara’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu took to Twitter railing against the “racist” behaviour in the European Parliament.
“Europe’s spoiled and racist children should know their place. Europe must put an end to racism and animosity against Islam,” he said.
“Nobody should doubt that our flag will continue to wave proudly forever! Expecting European Parliament to take necessary measures against this clown.”
Athens also denounced the MEP’s “unacceptable” actions.
“Greece condemns in the most categorical way any act that insults a national symbol, in this case the national symbol of Turkey,” the Greek foreign ministry said.
“The unacceptable actions of the representatives of neo-Nazism are outside Greek and European tradition,” it added.
“Neo-Nazis represent only themselves.”
Lagos, formerly a Golden Dawn lawmaker in Greece, turned independent in July because he said he disagreed with party policy.
He is among over a dozen senior Golden Dawn figures on trial for the 2013 murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas by alleged party members.
In the party’s military-style hierarchy, Lagos was their local commander for the Piraeus area where Fyssas died, prosecutors found.
The EU’s special rapporteur on Turkey, Nacho Sanchez Amor, who visited the country last week on his first trip in his official capacity, sought to ease tensions.
“Turkey is an EU candidate country. Our relations are not at their best in this very moment,” he wrote on Twitter.
“But nothing justifies the regrettable action of tearing the flag in the @Europarl_EN plenary. The usual extreme right islamophobic narrative is not welcome in Brussels.”
Greece last year again became the main entry point into Europe for migrants and refugees, many fleeing war or poverty.
The UN refugee agency in 2019 recorded more than 59,000 arrivals by sea and more than 14,000 via the land border with Turkey.
Already more than 3,000 have arrived so far this year.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to allow millions of Syrian refugees to head through his country towards Europe if the EU does not provide it with more financial support.
A 2016 deal between Ankara and Brussels has helped curb the flow of migrants to Europe in return for financial incentives.