Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression

The diplomatic crisis experienced with Germany is an example of the new crises Turkey will face in Europe from now on. The rising populism in Europe is inciting Islamophobia as well as anti-Turkish sentiments, influencing even central right and leftist policies.  
As a matter of fact, while we are experiencing this crisis with Germany, we have faced similar issues with the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. The Netherlands is holding elections this month, while France will do so next month. There are elections in Germany in fall, and there are elections in Austria, Italy and Spain in 2018. 

Even if the authoritarian populist rightist parties don’t make it into government, they are growing strong enough to influence governments. 

Since anti-Turkey sentiment will also increase, what should be done? 

The picture that emerged during the crisis in Germany is very important: When Turkey approached this crisis in terms of “freedom of expression,” it had a very strong hand. Germany, by preventing Turkish ministers’ meetings, had violated the freedom of expression of universal law. Turkey was absolutely right. This fact was mentioned in the German press; German politicians voiced it. Not even one European in a responsible position said the opposite. 

Finally, a thaw started when foreign ministers of the two countries met. 

However, when Germany was accused of “Nazism,” it caused a reaction. Even European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who was not directly involved in the incident, used harsh words. 

This experience is a sample incident showing how Turkey should act against the rising extreme right populism in Western democracies. 

Dutch fascist leader Geert Wilders is a populist pledging to close mosques and Muslim schools and ban the Quran in his one-page election manifesto. This person demonstrated in front of Turkey’s Embassy to The Hague two days ago against Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s Dutch trip by holding a poster written: “Stay away, this is our country.” He is also arguing that the Netherlands should exit the EU. 

Dutch Prime Minister and social democrat Mark Rutte, as well as defending EU membership, said Wilders’ protest was a threat against the law and that the freedoms of Muslims were “under the assurance of the Dutch constitution.” 

The lines are becoming clearer in the West: Law and freedoms before authoritarian populism. 

Isn’t there a similar picture in the United States? This, all together, is a very important picture in terms of Turkey’s foreign policy. Turkey can increase its friends in the West by defending democracy and law, not by engaging in populism against populism. 

Turkey is facing difficulties in its foreign policy in addition to the terror issue. Stability is indeed very important for Turkey, but it is misleading to minimize it to the concept of a “single party and continuous” power. True stability is social peace; it is the confidence citizens have in the law and public institutions.  

The strengthening of populist, Islamophobic movements in the West should not, in terms of foreign policy, push us into disproportional generalizations such as “crusader Europe.” Other than that Europe, there is also a Europe that defends democracy and law against authoritarian populism and that supports Turkey. If I were a voter, I would of course vote for Merkel and Rutte against the others. 

Turkey’s path in gaining friends in internationally, as well as domestic peace, is contingent on strengthening our hand with law and democracy. 

We cannot do this by standing in 80th place on international lists. 

Look, the United States and Russia, together, have gotten hold of Manbij, whereas we had declared that “we will hit the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Manbij.” 

Operation Euphrates Shield has indeed strengthened our hand but, in diplomacy, we need our hand to be further strengthened.