ISTANBUL: Europe is a "rotting continent" and the "centre of Nazism", President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today in his latest withering attack on the European Union in the campaign ahead of a crucial referendum.
Erdogan has repeatedly lashed out at the EU after some member states blocked Turkish ministers from holding rallies ahead of the April 16 referendum on expanding the president's powers. His accusations that Europe's behaviour was reminiscent of the Third Reich have infuriated the European partners of Turkey and raised questions about the future of its bid for EU membership.
"Europe no longer has anything else to say, neither to us or to anyone else. What we have here is a rotting continent," Erdogan said at a rally in the city of Balikesir.
"Racist parties are holding the leaders and European governments tightly by the hand," he added, referring to the rise of the far right in Europe. "Europe is no longer a centre of democracy, human rights and liberty but of repression, violence and Nazism," he added.
Analysts say Erdogan is seeking to appeal to Turkish nationalists whose votes will be crucial in determining the outcome of the referendum. With just 10 days to go before the vote, analysts say the result is too close to call despite the vastly greater resources of the "Yes" campaign.
Critics fear that the creation of a presidential system will lead to one-man rule in Turkey but Erdogan's supporters say the constitutional changes are needed for efficient government.
Erdogan has repeatedly said he will sign any bill passed by parliament to bring back capital punishment, a move that would effectively end Turkey's EU bid.