On Sunday, March 12th, a number of demonstrations took place in Turkey and the Netherlands which led to some new tension between the countries.
But how did this all start? Turkey is going to have a referendum about some new constitutional additions on 16th of April. The government of Turkey encourages Turkish people living in European countries to vote «yes» on expanding the presidential power. If the new policy comes in, the power of three legislative bodies will become one executive branch under the control of the Turkish president. Some critics find this move anti-democratic. One of the ways to promote the referendum was to hold several rallies. However, officials from a number of countries, the Netherlands among them, thought that this might cause conflicts and disagreed with this proposition. Along with that, the Netherlands forbade two Turkish ministers, who were going to give a speech about the referendum, to enter the country. This led to massive protests taking place in both countries.
The situation itself, with protests making it even more integrant, met with some controversial opinions. For the two countries, it is the case that their relationship became a lot tenser. The Turkish president Erdogan called for sanctions for the Netherlands and accused the behavior of the Dutch government as Nazis. Another thing mentioned by the Turkish side was that the Netherlands is sacrificing Turkish-Dutch relations by such decisions. The event that brought even more attention to this whole situation was that the diplomatic mission in Turkey had been closed for the Netherlands, and that the Dutch ambassador does not have to return to Turkey from his holiday for a while. Such statements may mean that Turkey is taking the situation very seriously and it can indeed ruin any traces of relationship between the countries. To make another remark, the Netherlands is not the first country to be accused of Nazism by Turkey. This recently happened to Germany as well for the similar reason. The European side demanded Turkey to bring an apology for such accusations, and stated that they are unacceptable.
The Dutch side called the sanctions from the Turkish side “bizarre” as the Netherlands is one of the biggest investors in Turkey, so the country could not possibly make the sanctions affect the trade. The only sanctions implemented in the end are freezing all diplomatic communication. The Dutch PM Mark Rutte also stated that, although the Netherlands has many reasons to be angry on Turkey for what happened that weekend, it is Turkey, which is calling for sanctions. One of the other threats that the Turkish government made to the European governments was to re-evaluate the deal concerning the flow of migrants to Europe, which can lead to unwanted consequences.
One of the reasons for this situation that is suggested, is that Erdogan wanted to boost more “yes” votes during the referendum, by making people more aggressive towards the European countries. This whole event is dimming Turkey joining the EU even more, and this question has been up for around 50 years now. And, most importantly, this case does not help Turkey in any case, as it may lose some of the connections and support from the EU.
However, the tension between Turkey and the EU (with Germany in particular) began to heat up even before the situation in the Netherlands. Firstly, European governments have been critical of the latest Erdogan’s policy in terms of its relation to basic freedoms. For example, around 140 media companies have been shut down and more than 41 thousand people were arrested. As well as this, Germany gave a negative opinion about the camps made for refugees. It was said that the camps lack the minimum necessities. Looking at more reports about the camps in Turkey, it may be found that the German side holds the truth. Also, among the reasons is also the closure of Turkey with Russia. As it may seem, nowadays, a country is either with Europe or with Russia, it is not possible to do both. Although Russia-Turkey relationships have their downsides and are not perfect, the countries do have a long history together. Moreover, not joining the EU is opening another option for Turkey – joining SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). Among the members of SCO are Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and others.
It is not clear yet which direction the country is heading and what will be next. One thing clear – Turkey and its relationship with other countries will be appearing on the news quite often.