Addressing 15,000 supporters at the Olympic stadium in Sarajevo, President Erdogan touched upon the issue of discrimination of Turks in Europe. He went on to say that expatriates serving in European governments had sought to undermine Turkey, and encouraged his supporters to become educated and work their way into power in those governments.
“The European countries that claim to be the cradles of democracy have failed, European Turks must show their strength to the whole world. You need to be in those parliaments instead of the ones who betray our country. Are you ready to demonstrate to the whole world the strength of European Turks? Are you ready to give the terrorist organizations and their local and foreign henchmen an Ottoman slap?” Erdogan said.
Erdogan arrived to Sarajevo to canvass support from Turks living in Europe for his ruling AK Party ahead of next month’s election in Turkey.
He also lambasted European nations that had not let him hold rallies on their soil, and said that the Turkish state news agency, TRT, would expand its coverage in Europe to counteract the alleged propaganda against Muslims. Erdogan also promised that expatriates who had obtained citizenship in other countries would still have their right to vote in Turkey.
Many of his supporters were bussed in from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to Sarajevo so that they could meet the president, and some of them told The Times that they saw Erdogan as “a world leader” despite the fact that he’s been “shut out from everywhere in Europe.”
Outside the stadium where Erdogan gave his speech, street vendors sold flags and T-shirts and scarves with Erdogan’s image on them and shouted “World leader scarves!”
Hours before Erdogan left for Sarajevo, the Turkish intelligence services received information about an assassination plot against the president. Reacting to the reports that quickly spread on media, Erdogan told a press conference in Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Such threats and operations cannot deter us. We have taken our path and will continue on it. Is it right, on my part, when thousands of people have come here to meet and communicate with the president, that they would not be able to do this? No, this will not work.”
Turkey’s relationship with the European Union deteriorated after a deep crisis erupted largely over the Turkish government’s crackdown following the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. In April 2017, a constitutional referendum that strengthened President Erdogan’s powers also contributed to increasing tensions between Ankara and Brussles.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan became Turkish president in 2014 after having served 11 years as the country’s prime minister. The next presidential election in Turkey is set for June with Erdogan running for a second term.