Turkey-Netherlands row

Turkey-Netherlands row

Turkey has announced a series of measures in retaliation for a Dutch decision to block its ministers from campaigning for a referendum. Deputy PM said the Dutch ambassador would be barred from returning to Ankara

Turkey versus the Netherlands, a animosity no one saw coming..

Turkey has announced a series of measures in retaliation for a Dutch decision to block its ministers from campaigning for a referendum. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the Dutch ambassador would be barred from returning to Ankara, and high-level political talks suspended. Turkish attempts to hold rallies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands have been blocked. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Dutch and Germans of Nazism.

Why is Turkey holding a referendum?

  • A new draft constitution that would significantly increase the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to be put to a referendum scheduled for 16 April.
  • In one brawl, a government MP alleged an opponent bit into his leg. In another, a plant pot was hurled across parliament. A microphone was stolen and used as a weapon. An independent MP handcuffed herself to a lectern, sparking another scuffle. The parliamentary debate on changing Turkey's constitution wasn't a mild affair.
  • On the surface, it might seem a proposal that would enjoy cross-party consensus: modernising Turkey's constitution that was drawn up at the behest of the once-omnipotent military after the coup of 1980.
  • But instead it's arguably the most controversial political change in a generation, becoming in effect a referendum on the country's powerful but divisive President Erdogan

Analysis

Both the countries have a lot to gain and lose in this dispute.

  • Turkey may hit Netherlands with sanctions as 'Nazi' row escalates
  • Turkey-Dutch relations strained after Turkish minister's visit banned
  • Conflict with the West could help Erdogan's campaign to expand his presidential powers. Turkey is a Muslim country and if Turks at home and abroad feel ostracized and mistreated, they have more reason to vote yes in a referendum for a leader who says he's looking out for their best interests.
  • Turkey's own election law forbids campaigning abroad. As well, many in the West find Erdogan's accusations of fascism ironic in light of Turkey's recent reputation for jailing journalists and firing academics.
  • Europeans have, until recently, been quiet about the rise of illiberalism and ethno-nationalism in Turkey in exchange for Erdogan stemming the refugee flow into Europe — and now Europeans are stuck with a neighbour they despise.

What next?

But there is a lot on the line. Not only for Turks who call the Netherlands home, but for Turkey's economy. Dutch foreign investment in Turkey is higher than any other country — about $20 billion US from 2005 to 2015, according to Turkey's economy ministry. Beyond the 400 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries, there are also billions of dollars in imports and exports at stake. In 2016, trade between the two countries totalled $6.6 billion.

Assessment

The hassle might not die down in the next few days — particularly in Turkey. Any conflict with the West is powerful fuel for Erdogan's campaign, just as anti-immigrant sentiment is for populist politicians in Europe. The rhetoric may cool down after the April 16 referendum.

But right now, the crisis is still very hot. Turkey is pushing for an apology, calling the Dutch actions a violation of diplomatic conventions, and is threatening sanctions.

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