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16 March 2017 / Blog, European Union, Turkey,

The Dutch-Turkish Row: Can It Be Solved?

AFP/Scanpix
AFP/Scanpix
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gives a speech on March 12, 2017 at the congress hall in the French eastern city of Metz, during a meeting to support Turkish president ahead of an April referendum that would boost his powers. The meeting, organised by a Turkish association, takes place after Dutch authorities barred Cavusoglu from entering the Netherlands, where he, too, had planned to campaign for the April referendum. The Netherlands, which holds general elections on March 15, 2017, had repeatedly said Cavusoglu was not welcome to campaign for the referendum in the country and refused his plane permission to land.

If you want to make an argument pointless, call your opponent a ‘Nazi’. That is exactly what happened between the Netherlands and Turkey recently, when the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the Dutch ‘Nazi remnants’. Before Erdoğan’s furious statement, the Dutch authorities had already denied entry to Rotterdam to both Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and families minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya. Çavuşoğlu had threatened the Dutch with sanctions—which constituted a red line for Mark Rutte’s government.

The Dutch have pointed out that they were the ones who suffered enormously under the Nazis. Rotterdam, the place where the Turkish ministers were supposed to deliver their speeches, was bombed in 1940 by the Luftwaffe—thus becoming the first city in Western Europe to endure massive air bombing. (London, Hamburg, Dresden etc were yet to come.) In addition, the Dutch suffered the so-called Hongerwinter (Hunger Winter) in 1944-45, in which approximately 22,000 people perished. All in all, the German occupation of the Netherlands lasted from 1940 to 1945, making it one of the longest occupations of the Second World War. So, does it sound a bit strange to call this country ‘a Nazi remnant’?

Nevertheless, it is clear that all comes down to the Dutch elections on Wednesday. Prime Minister Rutte and the anti-Islam/ anti-immigrant Geert Wilders are running neck-to-neck; despite Rutte having a slight lead in the opinion polls the government could not take any changes by letting the Turkish ministers to speak. It has to be remembered that Wilders himself was denied entry to the UK in 2009. One may guess that the Rutte government might have even yielded to Turkish requests, but not to ultimatums. This is the place where the Turkish clearly showed short-sightedness and demonstrated national arrogance. But perhaps the Turkish officials should ask themselves what would happen if Wilders became the prime minister of the Netherlands. Do they want to do business with Mark Rutte or with Geert Wilders?

It remains to be seen whether this Dutch-Turkish row will have any impact on the election results. The Netherlands and Turkey, after all, are also NATO allies. One is compelled to ask what sort of influence this ongoing row with the Turks has on regional security. If you take the language the Turkish authorities are using towards the Dutch, and compare it to the language the same authorities are using towards Russia, one may wonder which two states are allies—and which are not. While a diplomatic solution is in fact in everybody’s interests, how to get there is the fundamental question.

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