The Dutch government has said that Turkish politicians are not welcome at a ceremony commemorating last July’s failed coup attempt in Turkey. A similar dispute in March severely tested ties between the two countries.
The Netherlands’ foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Tugrul Turkes, would not be welcome at a rally marking one year since a failed coup attempt in Ankara and Istanbul.
The decision was made “given the current circumstance in bilateral relations between our countries,” the ministry statement said.
The move would apply to any government minister, but Turkes was already scheduled to attend an event organized by a Turkish organization in Apeldoorn, east of Amsterdam, on July 11.
Military officers attempted to overthrow Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian government on the night of July 15 into 16, 2016. Turkey accused Western governments of failing to express support for Erdogan’s government quickly enough. Since then, Erdogan has launched an industrial-scale purge of the military, academia, the legal system and the press – while pushing through a series of contentious reforms expanding his powers as president.
The referendum precedent
Ties between the Netherlands and Turkey were particularly strained in March this year, in the run-up to Dutch elections and the Turkish referendum that narrowly approved Erdogan’s new executive role.
Erdogan’s victory relied in no small part on his supporters living in EU countries casting postal ballots supporting him. To this end, his Justice and Development Party (AKP) set up a series of campaign rallies across Europe.
The Netherlands declared that Turkish leaders would not be welcome to campaign, and later expelled one who tried to defy the ban.
This prompted public protests centered around the port city of Rotterdam, where Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was refused entry to the Turkish consulate. Hundreds of Turkish protesters surrounded the building in response, a demonstration that culminated in 12 arrests for public order offenses.
Both President Erdogan and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte are currently in Hamburg for the G20 summit.
Parallels to Germany and Turkey unease
Germany, with Europe’s largest Turkish diaspora, has issued similar restrictions on Turkish political rallies. President Erdogan recently called limitations on the public appearances he could make while visiting Hamburg “political suicide.”
“There are more than 3 million Turkish citizens living in Germany. Why do German officials prevent me, as president of Turkey, from meeting with them and speaking to them? Why don’t they allow it,” Erdogan asked in an interview with the Die Zeit weekly, his first in years with any German newspaper. “Where is the freedom of opinion, the freedom of thought? And while you deny a country’s head of state the right to speak, PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] members can speak and demonstrate quite comfortably – and we can’t even speak by video link, which has been banned by the Constitutional Court.”
Turkey’s ties with Europe in general have been tense in recent years, especially since Erdogan’s transition to the presidency after a decade as prime minister. On Thursday, the European Parliament voted to formally suspend talks on Turkey’s long-stalled bid to join the EU.
msh/rc (dpa, Reuters)