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Turkey’s president: Turks living in Europe should all have 5 children

Making European nationalists uncomfortable is good politics for him.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan believes that Turks in Europe are facing terrible discrimination. His proposed solution: Make as many Turkish babies there as possible.

Speaking at a rally in the Turkish city of Eskisehir on Friday, Erdoğan told his compatriots living in Europe that they should view success — and the creation of big families — as the best way to combat the swell in anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish sentiment across the continent.

“Go live in better neighborhoods. Drive the best cars. Live in the best houses. Make not three, but five children. Because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you,” he said.

Anti-immigrant nationalists shudder at the idea of a swiftly growing and more powerful Turkish — and Muslim — population in Europe. And that’s exactly why Erdoğan encouraged it.

The Turkish-European relationship is in a state of chaos these days, and Erdoğan has found it politically advantageous to throw fuel on the fire. He’s currently touring Turkey in a bid to whip up support for a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would endow the presidency — and therefore him — with far more power. It’s a move his political opponents and many analysts see as a bald attempt at formalizing authoritarian rule in Turkey.

But playing up anti-Turkish sentiment and attacking Europe is proving to be an effective way of stirring up nationalist sentiments at home, which he hopes will translate into support for his referendum. And indeed, Erdoğan’s main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, has backed his recent denunciations of Europe.

Those denunciations have been aggressive. Earlier this month, Erdoğan accused Germany of behaving like “Nazis” after several German cities canceled rallies supporting his referendum, citing security concerns. Last weekend, he labeled Dutch authorities “Nazi remnants” after they prevented his ministers from campaigning for his referendum among Turkish expats in the Netherlands.

European nationalists have also fed off of this antagonism and used it for their own political gain. Dutch anti-immigrant firebrand Geert Wilders eagerly attempted to take credit for the Dutch government’s decision to bar the Turkish ministers from entering the country in the run up to the national election this week, in which he ended up second place.

While fiery politicians in both Europe and Turkey have much to gain in the short-term from combative posturing, there’s also some serious long-term costs that are being incurred. A big agreement between Turkey and the European Union hangs in the balance: Last year, Turkey agreed to curb the flow of migrants from the Middle East into Europe in exchange for $3 billion in economic aid, visa-free travel for Turks to Europe, and a renewed push in talks over Turkey joining the EU.

Should relations continue to sour between the two, the agreement could evaporate, and potentially contribute to a huge disruption in economic ties.