German state of Saarland bans Turkish rallies

Saarland becomes first state to impose blanket ban while Merkel’s government still opposes such a move

Ersin Çelik
09:17 - 15/03/2017 Wednesday
Update: 09:21 - 15/03/2017 Wednesday
Saarland becomes first state to impose blanket ban
Saarland becomes first state to impose blanket ban

Germany's small western state of Saarland has announced Tuesday that it has decided to ban political rallies held by Turkish politicians.

Saarland's state premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has claimed that appearances by Turkish politicians in Germany ahead of Turkey's constitutional referendum next month would undermine social harmony in the country.

“Internal conflicts of Turkey have no place in Germany. Election appearances which endanger domestic peace in our country should be banned," she said in a press release.

Saarland, which is one of Germany's smallest federal states, has taken the controversial decision ahead of state elections on March 26.

The state bordering France has a small Turkish community. Nevertheless, it has become the first federal state imposing such a general ban.

Nearly 3 million Turkish immigrants live in Germany and around half are eligible to vote in Turkey's April 16 referendum on the proposed constitutional change for a transition to a presidential system.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has so far rejected calls by opposition parties for a general ban on campaign rallies by Turkish politicians, provided that German laws and regulations are respected.

- Dialogue with Turkey

While Turkish politicians held various rallies in Germany in the past years without facing any problem, this month local authorities canceled several meetings of Turkish ministers, citing security concerns.

Saarland's move to impose a blanket ban on Turkish rallies came amid an ongoing standoff between Turkey and the Netherlands following a Dutch government ban on such rallies.

On Saturday, the Dutch government first canceled Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu's authorization to land in the Netherlands and then blocked a convoy carrying Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, forcing her to leave the country under police escort.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sharply criticized the Dutch government for its ban on Turkish rallies and the excessive use of force by police against Turkish protestors in Rotterdam on Saturday night.

“By displaying state-sponsored terror on Saturday, the Netherlands has greatly damaged the EU, its values which are no longer the bloc of laws, freedoms," Erdoğan said.

He depicted bans imposed in Netherlands and Germany as “fascist" and "Neo-Nazi" practices.

Far-right and populist parties in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria have recently proposed banning rallies of Turkish politicians in Europe ahead of the referendum, arguing that their campaign led to a polarization within the Turkish community in their respective countries.

However, the Council of Europe's secretary general Thorbjorn Jagland called on the European countries on Sunday to engage in a dialogue with Turkey regarding the opportunity for Turkish citizens abroad to be informed about the pros and cons of the proposed constitutional amendments.

"All public meetings and political campaigns held in Council of Europe member states should be conducted in accordance with national legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights," he stressed however.

Nearly 1.5 million Turkish migrants in Germany, and 250,000 in the Netherlands are eligible to vote in Turkey's April 16 referendum. Turkish citizens living abroad will cast their votes at Turkish consulates between March 27 and April 9.

#April 16 referendum
#diplomatic crisis
#Turkish diaspora
#Turks in Germany
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