The European Union on Thursday summoned the Turkish ambassador to the bloc to explain comments by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan related to an ongoing spat between Ankara and the EU.
Erdogan was addressing what Ankara sees as the suppression of free speech in some EU countries because of bans put on visiting Turkish politicians, and the treatment police have meted out to their supporters. He said Europe was damaging itself and its international standing with actions of these kinds.
"If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets. Europe will be damaged by this. We, as Turkey, call on Europe to respect human rights and democracy," Erdogan said on Wednesday.
The Commission, the EU's executive arm, is seeking an explanation from Turkey's envoy to the 28-nation bloc, a spokeswoman said.
"We have asked actually the Turkish permanent delegate to the EU to come ... as we would like to receive an explanation with regard to the comments by President Erdogan concerning the safety of Europeans on the streets of the world," EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.
Turkey's relations with the EU have become particularly strained after Germany and Netherlands cancelled planned campaign rallies on their territory by Turkish ministers ahead of an April 16 referendum on increasing presidential powers.
Two EU member states cited security concerns for their decisions to cancel the rallies.
But Erdogan has accused them of using "Nazi methods" and of trampling on free speech.