Luxembourg's foreign minister said on Monday that the Turkish government's handling of dismissed civil servants reminded him of methods used by the Nazis, and that, sooner or later, the EU would have to respond with sanctions.
More than 110,000 public servants in Turkey – from soldiers and judges to teachers and journalists – have been detained, suspended or sacked since a failed military coup in July, in what President Tayyip Erdogan's critics say is a crackdown on all forms of dissent.
Turkish officials say the measures are justified by the threat posed by the coup attempt, in which more than 240 people were killed as rogue soldiers commandeered fighter jets and tanks, bombing parliament and other buildings.
The names of those who are barred from public service are published in the official government gazette, potentially making it hard for them to find work elsewhere. In addition, their passports are canceled.
Jean Asselborn said people were also being stripped of their university degrees, and that many were being left with no income. Some dismissed teachers who were sole breadwinners have complained of being unable to feed their families.
"To put it bluntly, these are methods that were used during the Nazi era and that's a really, really bad development … that the European Union simply cannot accept," Asselborn said.
He suggested imposing economic sanctions, pointing out that 50 percent of Turkey's exports go to the EU and 60 percent of investment in Turkey comes from the bloc:
"At a certain point in time, we won't have any choice but to apply it (sanctions) to counteract the unbearable human rights situation."
Erdogan and government ministers have repeatedly said it is up to Turkey to decide how to respond to the coup attempt, which they accuse U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating through a network of supporters. Gulen has condemned the coup attempt and denied any involvement.
Turkey's EU Minister Omer Celik said Asselborn lacked knowledge of history, and that Ankara's actions should be equated to efforts to "protect democracy during the fight against the Nazis".
"The Nazis are like apprentices when compared with Gulenist terror organizations … We are talking about an organization that has massacred its own people with warplanes, tanks, warships and helicopters. Nobody should think that we will take a step back in our fight against them."
Erdogan said on Sunday he did not care if Europe called him a dictator and accused European nations of abetting terrorism by supporting Kurdish militants.
Turkey has also threatened to cancel a deal with the EU to prevent refugees from the Middle East crossing into Europe in return for an acceleration of its EU membership application and visa-free entry for Turks.
Austrian Defence Minister Hans Peter Doskozil was due to host counterparts from central Europe on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the EU's migrant crisis in the light of the situation in Turkey.