Deportations Sink Dutch-Turkish Relations
Turkish hopes to grow closer to Europe continue to fall apart as the controversy between Turkey’s President Erdogan and German and Dutch officials rages on. Turkish ministers have been barred from entering both countries as the nation tries to convince its expatriates to support an upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment giving Erdogan additional powers. The referendum is scheduled for April 16th.
Turkey Plans Referendum to Give President Erdogan More Powers
The referendum is part of President Erdogan’s plan to do away with the position of Prime Minister, and vest executive authority under a single person. The Turkish parliament already approved this change overwhelmingly, but constitutional amendments must be ratified by a popular vote as well. Those opposed to the passage of the referendum worry that allowing one man to hold so much power could easily lead to Turkey becoming a dictatorship.
European Officials Voice Concerns about Turkish Political Interventions
German officials originally cited safety concerns. However, political analysts also suggest that many of the European government leaders are afraid that the visits while energize the far right political parties in advance of national elections scheduled for this year. Denmark also suggested that Turkish officials delay scheduled visits lobbying in support of the measure.
German Officials Refuse Turkish Demands to Speak to Turkish Expatriates
The initial incident occurred when German authorities refused to let the Turkish Justice Minister, Bekir Bozdag, and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, speak to Turkish nationals about the referendum. Eventually Cavusoglu got around this restriction by giving a speech from Hamburg’s Turkish consular residence, which is technically considered Turkish soil. The ministers were trying to gain the support of the millions of potential voters living in Europe, most of whom were part of guest worker programs begun in the 1960s.
Erdogan Reacts to German Restrictions
After his officials were denied the opportunity to speak, Erdogan reacted by comparing the German actions to those of the Nazi era, a claim which the German government refuted. Critics of Turkey’s behavior noted that it is in fact Turkish law which prohibits campaigning overseas. On February 15th, Turkey’s election authority once again confirmed a ban on all foreign propaganda related to the referendum.
The Netherlands Bars Turkish Ministers
The situation escalated when the Netherlands also barred Cavusoglu and the Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Kaya from entry. The Netherlands declared Kaya an unwanted foreigner, and sent her back to Germany. The Turkish Foreign Ministry closed the Dutch embassies in Istanbul and Ankara. This was due to “safety concerns” related to protests taking place outside of both locations. Additionally, Turkey asked the Dutch ambassador, who had been on leave, not to return for an unspecified period of time.
More Syrian Refugees Could Reach Europe
One of the likely consequences of the tensions between Turkey and Europe will be in trafficking of Syrian refugees. Turkey is currently keeping most of the refugees from reaching mainland Europe. In return, the EU provides increased benefits for Turkish nationals living within EU member states. President Erdogan has voiced concerns that the EU has not fully implemented the deal.
Right-wing Candidates Take Advantage of Erdogan’s Hardline Stance
The Turkish attempts to sway opinion in the Netherlands could affect the upcoming Dutch elections as well. Geert Wilders, the anti-immigrant, far-right candidate from the Party for Freedom, used the situation to warn against Erdogan’s political policies. He also suggested that any Turkish citizens who share Erdogan’s views should leave Holland. The Dutch election is a test for whether European sentiment is turning more nationalist, like the U.K. and the United States.
The Netherlands Remains Turkey’s Top Investment Partner
Despite his declarations that the Netherlands has become fascist for refusing entry to a number of Turkish officials, Erdogan must remain careful not to strain relations with the Dutch government past the breaking point. The Netherlands is currently Turkey’s major foreign investor. Dutch companies could start withdrawing funding from Turkish companies. Then Erdogan will find it difficult to stabilize the country’s economy. Calming economic fears was one of the reasons he is promoting a central authority.
How Will the Tensions between Turkey and Europe Affect Trading?
Turkey has threatened to levy penalties against the Netherlands in answer to the Dutch treatment of its ministers. Dutch exports to Turkey make up a significant portion of the country’s economy. Expect the euro to fall in anticipation of lower earnings and increased refugee numbers.
Turkey also plays a role as a mediator between Asia and Europe. If the country withdraws from working closely with the EU, the United States may take a more active role in the region. This despite President Trump’s stated wish to become more isolationist. This would improve stock prices for companies in the defense sector.