The diplomatic row between Turkey and the Netherlands has evolved into a full-fledged European crisis, pitting Western liberal democracies against an increasingly repressive Islamist NATO-ally.
A breaking point in 406-year old Turkish-Dutch ties, Turkey's longest permanent tie with any European nation https://t.co/WejOkuBkCD— Soner Cagaptay (@SonerCagaptay) March 12, 2017
Here are the 7 things you need to know about the Turkey vs. the Netherlands fiasco:
1. The crisis began when Turkey dispatched government officials to rally support for an upcoming referendum from Turkish nationals residing in the Netherlands. Turkey’s foreign minister was set to hold a rally in Rotterdam on Saturday in support of a constitutional referendum in Turkey that would expand the Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Once a model for an effective Islamic-Arab democracy, the Republic of Turkey has begun to move further away from founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s vision of a secular, European-style state. Erdogan’s brutal crackdown on political dissent has subverted the country’s democratic blueprint, empowering the government in Ankara to restrict the free speech rights of dissidents and minorities alike. The upcoming constitutional referendum would cement Erdogan’s ability to govern with an iron first.
2. The Dutch barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from entering the country. Cavusoglu’s plane was blocked from landing because the Dutch could not, in good faith, allow the foreign government of Turkey to use Dutch soil as a platform to campaign for repressive measures at home.
3. Turkish family minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was blocked from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam after she circumvented the flight restriction and crossed the border into the Netherlands by car. The family minister held a series of meetings in Germany before illegally entering the Netherlands. When she arrived at the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, her vehicle was stopped by the police. Ensconcing herself inside her armored vehicle, Kaya refused to leave. Dutch police warned the Turkish delegation that the minister’s vehicle would be towed if she refused to exit the vehicle. Ultimately, the minister was deported after being escorted by police across the border.
4. In response, hundreds of pro-Erdogan Turkish supporters staged a protest outside of the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam on Saturday evening. The protesters waved Turkish flags and vacillated between chanting “Erdogan” and “Allahu Akbar.” The protest eventually turned disruptive and violent, forcing police to erect barricades and disperse the crowd with water cannons.
5. Erdogan himself responded to Amsterdam’s flight restrictions against the Turkish foreign minister with self-righteous rage. "Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on, let's see how your flights will land in Turkey,” Erdogan warned, addressing a crowd of supporters in Turkey. Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu also issued a direct threat against the Netherlands, suggesting that Ankara would proceed to impose sanctions if his flight were to be blocked.
6. Erdogan called the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and “fascists.” At a rally in Istanbul, the Turkish president condemned Amsterdam in the strongest possible terms, calling the Dutch government a “banana republic.” Erdogan invoked the Nazis to demonize a European country that suffered heavy losses at the hands of the Third Reich. "They do not know politics or international diplomacy," he jeered. This comes as Erdogan doubles-down on provocations against EU states. “Last week, Mr Erdogan accused Berlin of "Nazi practices" after a number of his rallies were cancelled, drawing a sharp response from the German government,” reports the CBC.
7. The Dutch are not hopeful about the future of Turkish-Dutch relations. Despite branding themselves as an uber-tolerant nation, even the Dutch have a line that could not be crossed.
As the diplomatic row unfolded, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called Erdogan’s Nazi comparisons "a crazy remark, of course. But I understand they are angry, but this is, of course, way out of line." Turkey’s threat of sanctions has made "the search for a reasonable solution impossible,” added Rutte.