Populism and its dangerous consequences

Populism and its dangerous consequences

The confrontation which emerged during the weekend between Turkey and the Netherlands has created serious confusion due to uninformed and hasty interpretations.

Many wonder whether or not Turkish Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya has been declared a “persona non grata” by the Dutch authorities. It is also a matter of concern as to what the consequences of such a declaration might be.

The distinction between the legal definition of such a status and the populist political implementation of such a legal term should be clarified.

Diplomatic relations between countries are defined by international law. The main reference for this is the “Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations” signed on April 18, 1961. This international legal instrument entered into force on April 24, 1964.

Article 9 of the convention contains two paragraphs which are as follows:

“1. The receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable. In any such case, the sending State shall, as appropriate, either recall the person concerned or terminate his functions with the mission. A person may be declared non grata or not acceptable before arriving in the territory of the receiving State.

2. If the sending State refuses or fails within a reasonable period to carry out its obligations under paragraph 1 of this article, the receiving State may refuse to recognize the person concerned as a member of the mission.”

A careful reading of the above would clearly identify Ms. Kaya as not being a person defined under the Vienna Convention. She is not the head of mission, any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission or any other member of the staff of the mission. All these categories of persons have their clear definitions in the convention, too.

Minister Kaya is a member of the Turkish government. In that respect, she has a diplomatic passport. The fact that she has the right to acquire a diplomatic passport stems from the office she holds.

Her ownership of a diplomatic passport, therefore, does not automatically give the legal right to the Dutch authorities to declare her a “persona non grata,” a legal status which can only be applied to diplomatic staff.
Diplomatic passport holders normally enjoy certain privileges during their travels. States offer such privileges to diplomatic passport owners even if they may not be diplomats and apply a code of conduct out of courtesy, which is a general application in practice all over the world.

The uncommon attitude of the Dutch authorities that was applied to Minister Kaya is due to mere political considerations and does not conform to the practice of a general code of conduct.

Turkey certainly has the right to ask for a reasonable and acceptable correction of such a discourteous action. No matter how the Dutch authorities attempt to justify it, Turkey will find it inappropriate and insufficient.

It is sad to observe that Turkey’s relations with its allies in Europe are seriously deteriorating. This is the age of populism, not only in Europe by the way, and nobody is innocent under the circumstances emerging from this political stream. Populism tends to discredit all kinds of courtesy, to undermine all kinds of respect for human relations and to disregard international law.

Europe is unfortunately under a growing siege of populism. The extremist, racist, xenophobic and segregationist policies of marginal parties may have devastating consequences for European politics.

The danger is more serious than thought because mainstream political parties cannot develop reasonable policies to face this new anti-establishment trend but simply incline to conform to them.

What has happened between Turkey and the Netherlands is mainly a product of this political quackery. It could have been avoided but narrow political interests triggered its aggravation.

France, on the other hand, came to the brink of a similar crisis with Turkey due to remarks made by Marine Le Pen on Twitter but the French foreign minister chose to react with reason and avoided a catastrophe.
Turkey and the Netherlands will also overcome this unintended situation in time. However, it will leave deep wounds which will be difficult to repair.

In this dangerous age of populism, a further confrontation between civilizations might be inevitable unless a new understanding of politics based on respectable human relations and the principles of democracy prevails.