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Europe

Turkey's Erdogan escalates war of words with European Union

Turkey's president has suggested that sweeping emergency powers could be extended as he chides the European Union for objecting to mass purges of opposition figures and media outlets.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the European Union Saturday that Turkey could extend by at least another three months a state of emergency that has been in place since the failed July coup. In a public address in Istanbul, Erdogan launched another attack on the EU just days after the European Parliament voted to back a freeze in accession talks with Ankara.

"Maybe the state of emergency will be extended by three months and then maybe another three months," Erdogan said. "This is a decision for the government and the parliament." He also threatened to restore capital punishment, a decision that would effectively end Ankara's longstanding bid. And he added that he would listen to Turkish citizens rather than people named  "Hans" and "George," picking two common European first names.

Turkey's state of emergency, which was imposed after the July 15 failed coup, has seen tens of thousands of people arrested, causing alarm in Brussels over the scale of the crackdown. "What's it to you?" the Turkish president said, referring to European parliamentarians. "Is the European Parliament in charge of this country or is the government in charge of this country?"

European Commission chief losing patience

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned Turkey's leaders they needed to decide whether they actually want to join the EU and work towards visa liberalization for Turkish citizens visiting the EU. "I note that Erdogan and his government are in the process of 'pre-blaming' Europe for the failure of accession negotiations," Juncker told Belgian newspaper "La Libre" in an interview published Saturday.  "Instead of placing the blame on the European Union and the commission, Mr. Erdogan would do better to ask himself whether he is not responsible for the fact that Turkish citizens are not able to circulate freely on European territory."

The EU is becoming increasingly critical of Turkey's state-of-emergency laws under which about 75,000 civil servants and members of the security forces have been purged and more than 37,000 arrested. Hundreds of associations and media outlets have been shuttered and 10 members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested.

Turkey uses refugees as leverage

Turkey has threatened to open Turkey's border to let Middle Eastern refugees go to Europe, if matters escalate. "Millions of refugees in Turkey ready to move on as readmission deal with the EU enters death spiral," read a headline of the staunchly pro-government English language "Daily Sabah" newspaper. 

The EU had reached a deal with Turkey, which is meant to stem the flow of migrants to the bloc's member countries, after more than 1 million people flocked to Europe last year. Hundreds of thousands came from Turkey, which hosts more than 2 million Syrian refugees.

jar/jlw (AFP, dpa)