BRUSSELS The European Commission said on Thursday it had summoned the Turkish ambassador to explain comments by President Tayyip Erdogan that Europeans would not be able to "walk safely on the streets" if they kept up their current attitude towards Turkey.
Turkey's relations with the European Union have become particularly strained after two member states cancelled planned campaign rallies on their territory by Turkish ministers ahead of an April 16 referendum on boosting Erdogan's powers.
Germany and the Netherlands cited security concerns for their decision, but Erdogan has accused them of using "Nazi methods" and of trampling on free speech.
On Wednesday Erdogan said: "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."
The Commission, the EU's executive arm, is seeking an explanation from Turkey's envoy to the 28-nation bloc, a spokeswoman said.
"On these specific comments, we have actually asked the Turkish foreign delegate to the EU to come to the EEAS (the Commission's foreign policy service) today for a meeting," the spokeswoman said.
Turkey's mission to the EU had no immediate comment.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Waverly Colville; Editing by Robin Emmott and Gareth Jones)