Turkey as a PR card: Reasons for conflict between Dutch authorities and Erdogan

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source :

The authorities of the Netherlands give an example to other EU countries, how to win the trust of the electorate, which gravitates toward Eurosceptics and supporters of the Kremlin
23:18, 14 March 2017

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On the eve of the parliamentary elections in Holland, which take place on March 15, a diplomatic scandal broke out between the Dutch government and their Turkish counterparts. A really huge scandal. Last week, the Dutch authorities did not allow the Turkish diaspora to hold a political rally in the city of Rotterdam, dedicated to the upcoming referendum on changing the form of government in Turkey. President Recep Erdogan is interested in strengthening his power by amending the Turkish constitution regarding the transition from a mixed to a presidential republic.

Dutch officials refused to land the plane of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and Turkish Minister of Family Affairs and Social Policy Betül Sayan Kaya was not allowed to the Turkish consulate, despite the fact she was already in the Netherlands to campaign in front of Turkish migrants to take part in the referendum. Dutch law-enforcers with the help of water cannons and rubber bullets dispersed the protests of Turkish migrants who wanted to hear the ministers of their country. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that his government had warned the Turkish side in advance regarding the unwillingness to participate in the political campaign of its government, but the Turkish ministers decided to come anyway.

Recep Erdogan is interested in that referendum on changing Turkish form of government was held in Western Europe, where 4.6 million Turkish citizens live and work. About half a million Turks migrated to Holland - this is 2.4% of the population of the 17 million of country. This is a powerful electorate, which after the campaign can support the presidential form of government. It is significant that the Turkish president, being angry, called the Dutch officials "fascists".

The tough anti-Turkish actions of the Dutch authorities look unusual and do not fit into the politics of multiculturalism. In Holland, including Rotterdam, there are Turkish mosques, cultural centers. Turkey is a major business partner of the Netherlands. From 2002 to 2015 the commodity turnover between countries increased from 2.4 to 6.1 billion dollars. Turkish citizens are a cheap labor force for local entrepreneurs. Many Dutch people like to relax in Turkish resorts. A couple of years ago, the Anatolian Peninsula was visited by 1.2 million Dutch tourists.

Political PR of the ruling party

The ban on rallies and speeches for Turkish migrants and officials is very similar to the political PR action  of the "People's Party for Freedom and Democracy" of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who together with the "Labor Party" of Diederik Samsom forms a coalition in the Dutch parliament. A few days before the parliamentary elections it is important to mobilize the electorate. The authorities are trying to create  the image of the defender of the Dutch society interests against the willfulness of migrants from Muslim countries.

The migration crisis did not bypass Holland. From 2014 to September 2016, the number of Syrian refugees in the Netherlands increased from 15 thousand to 64 thousand people. Within two years, the Dutch government, in the framework of its obligations to the EU, has pledged to resettle 7,000 more refugees. Together with refugees, Islamic extremists appeared in Holland. Last year law enforcement officers detained there three terrorists connected with ISIS. Holland law enforces also reported the 4th level of the terrorist threat according to five-point scale.

On the background of the migration crisis in the Netherlands, the popularity of the right-wing "Freedom Party" of eurosceptic and islamophobe Geert Wilders, the main competitor of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, has increased. According to a recent sociological survey, his party may get to 25 seats in the Dutch parliament following the election, while the number of seats for Mark Rutte and his party may decrease from the existing 40 to 22 seats.

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Geert Wilders criticizes the liberal migration policy of the current government. He is considering the possibility of holding a referendum on the withdrawal of the Netherlands from the EU (Nexit). He also believes that the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions is "a necessary condition" for the safe future of Holland. He does not support the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, believing that Ukraine must remain a buffer between Europe and Russia until the Minsk agreements are fulfilled. Strengthening the position of Eurosceptics in the Dutch parliament is undesirable for the preservation of European unity, including the matter of countering Russian aggression.

If, on the eve of the parliamentary elections in Holland, the activities of the Turkish diaspora and politicians took place, some Dutch society might perceive this as a government’s disregard of the migration crisis problem. It’s not just Holland suffers from the flow of refugees, but also Turkish politicians feel at home, without asking Dutch, whether they agree that their city of Rotterdam will become a platform for agitation or not. The Dutch society is concerned about the migration crisis, the socio-economic problems of the eurozone, and it does not care what kind of government will be in Turkey. Geert Wilders already made a PR action against the background of dispersal of protests of Turkish migrants. He said that it is necessary to deport all Turks who do not agree with the actions of the Dutch authorities.

The Dutch authorities tried to change the public opinion in their favor by showing toughness and determination towards Turkey. While Eurosceptics are discussing the need to combat Islamic extremism and tightening the migration regime, the Dutch authorities have in fact demonstrated that they have more resources to restore order.

Turkish migrants and politicians were chosen as a target for political PR because they can’t make provocations in response. Turkey will have to accept that it has become a card of the political PR for the Dutch authorities, because a significant number of its citizens are dependent on the European labor market. Holland gives an example to other EU countries, how it is necessary to win the trust of the electorate, which gravitates toward Eurosceptics and supporters of the Kremlin.

Turks in Holland: live as Dutch live

The actions of the Netherlands in relation to the Turkish ministers and protesters are a kind of personification of the future approach of the EU towards migrant from Muslims and labor-exporting countries, including Turkey. Holland is not the only example of a European country that has abolished Turkish rallies. The ban on the speeches of Turkish politicians was imposed by the authorities of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (the latter is not a member of the EU). Any withdrawal of foreigners from the foundations and positions of power and society of European countries will be severely suppressed. There are many citizens of various countries in Asia and Africa in the EU. According to Frontex, last year 364 thousand refugees crossed the maritime borders of the EU, in 2015 - more than 1 million people. Most of the refugees are from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

If today the authorities of European countries allow Turkish officials to organize political agitation in their cities with the support of diplomatic institutions, tomorrow politicians from African countries will campaign in the EU and urge refugee citizens to vote in embassies and consulates for their candidacy. Radical Islamists, under the cover of theologians or cultural figures, will run to the European countries to carry out the ideological work among refugees who have nothing to lose. So they think in Europe, and this is for some reason.

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EU ultimatum in Dutch

Holland, through its actions, has made it clear to Turkey that it will not be part of the European political process until President Recep Erdogan pursues a policy of strengthening authoritarianism. Refusal to land the board of the Turkish Foreign Minister is another proof of this. At the end of last year, the EU froze negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU. Brussels suspended financing of European integration projects for Turkey.

The EU understands that the deterioration of relations with Turkey will not entail serious consequences. Recep Erdogan does not have effective levers of blackmailing the EU. The Turkish president has repeatedly threatened to refuse to cooperate with the EU in the settlement of the migration crisis. There are 3 million refugees in Turkey. However, if the Turkish president makes this step, EU member states can start deportation of Turkish migrants as a countermeasure under the sauce of resolving the migration crisis and vacating jobs for Europeans.

It is doubtful that Turkish citizens who went to Europe for a better life will be satisfied with the policies of their president. For Recep Erdogan it is also unprofitable to see the return of hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens who will become a hotbed of opposition sentiments, will demand the resignation of the president and the establishment of relations with the EU.

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