Germany: Turkey is 'further from European Union membership than ever'

However, relations between the European Union and Turkey have soured after Germany and the Netherlands prevented Turkish politicians, including Cavusoglu, from campaigning for April 16 referendum that would, if approved, give executive powers to incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Juncker nevertheless said he was opposed to a complete halt to all membership negotiations with Turkey.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Europe of starting a new battle between Islam and Christianity following a ruling permitting employers to ban headscarves.

Over the past fortnight, the row has escalated, with Mr Erdogan repeatedly accusing Dutch and German politicians of acting like "Nazis" and claiming the "spirit of fascism" is rampant in Europe. In search of an enemy, any enemy, he and his fellow Turkish political leaders are going after Europe on the eve of a referendum which they hope will greatly consolidate power in his hands. "Seventeen percent, 20 percent, there are a lot of parties like this, but they are all the same", Çavuşoğlu said at a rally in the southern city of Antalya on Thursday, Reuters reported.

He said Germany should avoid reacting in kind to provocations from Turkey because that would only give Erdogan the "who needs a bogeyman for his campaign".

Erdogan, who was speaking at a meeting of an Islamic foundation in Istanbul, said the reporter, Deniz Yucel of Germany's Die Welt newspaper, would be tried by Turkey's independent judiciary.

The demo "Solidarity for Turks" had been organised in the wake of the weekend riots in Rotterdam which took place after two Turkish ministers were banned from addressing rallies.

He used an informal form of "you" in Turkish.

Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary caucus leader of Gabriel's Social Democrats, said Turkey's chances of joining the European Union would be "gone for good" if the country reintroduced the death penalty, as Erdogan has suggested.

Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin made the comment in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk.

Turkey has picked fights specifically with European countries where immigration has become a lightning rod for debate.

Some 2.5 million Turkish citizens resident in Europe are eligible to vote in elections in their homeland.

But, embittered by a Dutch move to block Turkish ministers from holding rallies several days earlier, Mr Erdogan offered no congratulations, instead saying the Netherlands had lost a friend.