Europe's anti-Erdogan rhetoric due to 'jealousy': PM
'Saying yes on April 16 means saying yes to a stronger Turkey,' says Yildirim
By Esra Kaymak Avci
Europe criticizes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan because he does not allow Turkey's resources to be siphoned off, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Friday .
"Europe [media headlines] call Recep Tayyip Erdogan a dictator because he doesn't let his county's resources be siphoned off," the premier said at a gathering in eastern Turkey's Kars province -- a Yes campaign event ahead of Turkey’s referendum on constitutional changes.
"Therefore, April 16 is important. Saying yes on April 16 means saying yes to a stronger Turkey, to rapid improvement, to further democracy, to end terrorism and to say yes to brotherhood and unity."
"This [referendum] is not about Erdogan," he added. "It is necessary for all."
Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 to decide whether to shift the government system to an executive presidency, among other changes. Some European media organizations, including Der Spiegel in Germany, have repeatedly likened Erdogan to an authoritarian.
Yildirim said that Europe had tried to target Erdogan by allowing Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) members as well as PKK militants to stage anti-Erdogan protests and create an anti-Turkey rhetoric.
Earlier this week, a rally of supporters of the terrorist PKK in Switzerland showcased a poster with a picture of Erdogan with a gun pointed at his head with the words "Kill Erdogan".
Similar rallies had also taken place in Germany, Netherlands and Denmark.
- Economic growth boost despite challenges
Yildirim also addressed the country's economic situation. He said national income has increased from $230 billion to $800 billion since the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party came into power in 2002, despite the challenges the country faced last year, including a coup attempt and numerous severe terrorist attacks.
According to the latest data published Friday by the Turkish Statistical Institute, Turkey's economy expanded at a rate of 2.9 percent in 2016.
Turkey's fourth-quarter GDP reading was also substantially higher than experts’ median estimates, coming in at 3.5 percent compared to a 2.4 percent survey prediction. These better-than-expected figures were partly related to the upwards revision of previous quarters.
According to Yildirim, Erdogan helped his country gain more from world markets, started to build world's biggest airport in Istanbul and launched many other projects which would transform Turkey into a more developed and powerful position.
The prime minister accused Europe of "being jealous" and of attempting to favor a No outcome in the referendum.
"They don't want Turkey to develop. They want it to be buried to its own domestic problems and lose power so that they [Europe] can play with Turkey however they want," Yildirim said.
The reason for these efforts lies in the fact that Turkey has kept its financial income at home and did not let it flow to Europe, according to Yildirim.
The mega projects which would boost Turkey's economic growth include Istanbul’s third airport, which will have a capacity of up to 200 million passengers a year. Due to its location, this airport is expected to be a hub for flights connecting Europe, Asia, Africa, Middle East and Americas.
Three other mega-projects are also currently under construction: Istanbul’s third airport; the Gebze-Halkali commuter train link in Istanbul; the Ovit tunnel in northeastern Anatolia; and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway.