Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the Turkish citizens residing in Europe to have at least five children in an attempt to multiply their presence in the continent amid rising tensions between the European Union and Ankara.
The Turkish leader, father of four, made the remarks at a rally in Eskisehir, the provincial capital of the mid-western province of Eskisehir, on Friday, four years after he called on the Turkish women to have at least three children to help boost the population, saying having one or two children would be “bankruptcy” for the nation. The controversial remarks, which were repeated over the following years, however, were lambasted by women’s rights activists at the time and later on.
“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. That’s because you are the future of Europe,” Erdogan further addressed the Turkish diaspora.
Turkey’s unprecedented dispute with the EU in general and the Netherlands and Germany in particular erupted earlier this month after Amsterdam and Berlin blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies to secure a 'Yes' vote in Turkey’s April referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers.
“It will be the best answer to the vulgarism, antagonism, and injustice made against you,” Erdogan added, referring to the rally bans imposed by the Netherlands and Germany. Earlier, he had described the Dutch authorities as “fascists” and “remnants of Nazis” and had accused the German authorities of committing “Nazi practices.”
Earlier this week, the EU had called on Ankara to “refrain from excessive statements” angering both Amsterdam and Berlin.
Some 2.5 million Turkish citizens are currently living in Europe and are eligible to take part in elections, including the upcoming referendum. In addition, millions more people with Turkish origins are living in EU member states.
The April 16 plebiscite is aimed at abolishing the office of the prime minister and giving more executive powers, including issuing decrees, declaring emergency rule, appointing ministers and state officials and dissolving the parliament, to the currently largely ceremonial position of the Turkish president.
Erdogan made the remarks only a day after the government threatened to abandon a refugee agreement with the EU, which was sealed in March 2016 to stem the flow of refugees to Europe in return for financial and political rewards for Ankara.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu cautioned Brussels on Thursday that his country could send up to 15,000 refugees and asylum seekers each month to the EU amidst the growing diplomatic row between the two sides.
His remarks came hours after Erdogan said the EU could “forget about” the deal. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also warned on Friday that Ankara was reconsidering the deal and that it might cancel the accord altogether.
Under the refugee agreement, the European authorities, particularly the Greeks, can return the refugees, who have illegally crossed the Aegean Sea, to Turkey.