Standoff politics

Standoff politics

Turkey and the Netherlands are two allies. So is Turkey and the Federal Republic of Germany. Turkey and Austria are allies as well. These countries are not so enthusiastic these days about hosting Turkish ministers, even the president. So far, only the Netherlands took the “unhappiness with the visit of Turkish politicians” to the level of telling the Turkish foreign minister that he was not welcome to land at Schiphol Airport, as flight clearance for the plane expected to carry him to the Netherlands was withdrawn. Worse, a Turkish minister was barred from entering the Rotterdam consulate of Turkey. Turkey reciprocated by telling the Dutch ambassador, who was on leave, not to return to the country for some time, in an indication that the tension probably still has a peak to climb.

Will other countries walk the same road in the days and weeks ahead? Will other European authorities declare Turkish ministers, the prime minister or president as “personae non gratae?” Is Turkey being treated as a political outcast by its allies? Can anyone assume that a European country won’t stand up tomorrow and say: “Sorry Turkey, enough is enough. You may continue your polarization tactics in politics at home, but you have no right whatsoever to expect us to allow you to export the polarization, tension and animosities you have landed Turkey in to our country.”

Why did the Netherlands take such a decision? Was it appropriate for the prime minister of an ally to tell the Turkish foreign minister he was not wanted to travel to his country? Was it appropriate to cancel the flight clearance of the plane of the foreign minister just hours before his departure from Turkey? Was it appropriate for the Turkish minister for family affairs, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, to defy the Dutch “You are not wanted” message and travel to the Netherlands by road? Was it appropriate for the Dutch police to block the roads and stop the car of the Turkish minister? If there was a problem regarding security and public order in the Netherlands – which, by the way, is heading to a crucial vote on March 15 as well – why did the Dutch and Turkish governments and their bureaucracies not solve it through quite diplomacy befitting their allied relations?

No one, of course, can blame the Dutch government for not wanting politicians of even an allied country to stir up political debate in their country days before a crucial vote – particularly if the presence of Turkish ministers and the rallies they organize in the Netherlands might help far-right candidates emerge victorious in the March 15 polls. Could there be anything wrong in the requests by the Dutch government to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government that they would be most welcome after the March 15 elections, provided the rules relating to public gatherings were duly respected?

Obviously as much as it is understandable to the AKP and Erdoğan that Turkey’s allies would help the country in a campaign period for a key vote, it is a fundamental duty of any government to ensure public security is not hindered. Was Prime Minister Mark Rutte wrong when he said that while his country did not oppose gatherings in the Netherlands to inform Turkish citizens about the April 16 vote, “these gatherings may not contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guaranteed?” 

Still, can anyone condone the Dutch attitude?

The Netherlands is not the only European country Turkey has entered into a very dangerous argument over its intention to organize rallies to promote a “yes” vote in the April 16 constitutional amendment vote. Some German municipalities have shunned requests by the Turkish government to organize rallies in their towns.

Austria, likewise, was irked by Turkey carrying the referendum campaign there. AKP executives, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, have been complaining that while those countries were “tolerating and even abetting terrorists” and “no” campaigners, they were refusing permission for the legitimate representatives of Turkey from informing Turkish voters in those countries about what they will be voting on come April 16. Rather than handle the issue through diplomacy, they have preferred to lambast the Germans and the Dutch and describe them as “fascist” and “Nazi remnants,” demonstrating the stubborn style of the Turkish leadership, which might even be consolidated with the April 16 vote. Already, Erdoğan, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and other top Turkish executives are talking about the “severe sanctions” Turkey will impose on the Netherlands immediately after the April 16 vote.

Will Turkey impose the same sanctions on other countries where Turkish officials might be declared “unwelcome” if they pose a threat to domestic security and public order in those countries as well? Has Turkey decided to replace allied relations with standoff politics?

Once upon a time, this country was talking about “zero problems with neighbors.” Turkey is no longer a country without a problem with any of its neighbors. Instead, it has successfully moved into a “problem with all” situation. Now, apparently, for the sake of promoting aspirations for a super presidency, it is attempting to spread the politics of tension and polarization to all countries where Turkish citizens might vote… 

Will the world allow that? Unfortunately, even allies have a clear answer: “Sorry, buddy, you are not welcome.”