Global Migration & Politics
Analysis and commentary on the politics of the Middle East, of the power games that defines the region, and the economic, religious and ethnic problems the region is often facing.

A terrible Turkish fuss

The recent days of crisis between Holland and Turkey is a mysterious affair with a great deal of ingredients for a major Turkish soap opera that only the best drama queens can produce. Turkey’s insistence on having ministers go to their own nationals in EU membersstates to make sure they vote in the Turkish election. Everything indicates that many heavy players may have had solid political interests in overriding the normal political rules – both the Turkish government and the referendum in the Netherlands.

What is this all about?

Why was the Turkish family minister, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, escorted by car by the Dutch authorities to the border with Germany?

Why was the Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, denied landing permission in Holland?

Why was the Dutch embassy in Ankara closed and the ambassador asked not to be in Turkey? And why did Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, draw the Nazi card against the Dutch authorities’ handling of the case?

And finally: what has Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen (V) do in the midst of this apparent affair? It is not easy to find the head and tail in this tragicomic big politics misery.

Prehistoric

The whole case is based on the forthcoming vote in Turkey on an extension of the President’s powers. A choice that will mean not only a longer presidential term for Erdogan but will first and foremost ensure an expansion of his power, which – according to critics – will effectively undermine democratic processes in the country.

The choice is crucial for Erdogan. In previous blog posts , I’ve described the mood in Turkey in these months up to the election of a constitutional amendment – including the use of false news to get a separate political agenda throughout.

There are big things at stake, not just for Erdogan, but equally for the entire country’s future political development. For this reason, the Turkish government has been mobilized to travel to the larger Turkish populations in several of the European countries.

First and foremost, the Turkish government has especially Germany and Holland in the binoculars because the two countries have the largest concentrations of Turkish citizens. Citizens who appreciate have the right to vote in Turkey.

When two choices collide and too much is symbol policy

Last week, the Turkish Foreign Minister wanted to speak to the Turkish community about the constitutional elections in the Netherlands. The Dutch authorities had announced in advance that they did not want the minister’s presence in the country at the time in view of the forthcoming Dutch parliamentary elections.

Immediately it can be difficult to understand the context – between a Dutch election and a Turkish minister visiting a Turkish voter group in Holland. Normally such a small case between two countries would be arranged by diplomatic means without the involvement of the press. However, the Turkish Foreign Minister was rejected by Dutch authorities.

Then the Turkish family minister, who was in Germany, tried to come to Holland to speak for Erdogan’s political views.

Drama for the Drama

The question is why was it so imperative for the Turkish family minister to come to visit at that very moment? The Dutch elections will be held on Wednesday 15 March.

With a little political finesse, Turkish visitors could have expected a visit to the minister after the Dutch elections. The outcome of the Turkish vote will hardly depend on a ministerial visit in Rotterdam. Of course not. However, when the minister insisted on overcoming the Dutch Government’s wish not to come to Rotterdam, she simultaneously invited the press to dance.

It was not without drama that the minister stood outside his country’s consulate – and thus Turkish territory – and was denied access. It gave even more drama when she was driven away in a car and driven to the German border during major protests. And more drama afterwards when several thousand protesters trooped up in front of the consulate in protest over the Dutch authorities’ handling of the case. And drama is a convenient means of creating awareness in a political case.

The Elephant in the Glass Store

Now, no doubt that this somewhat precarious affair might have been handled in a somewhat more elegant way from the Dutch side.

For example, one could have let the minister go to the consulate as she insisted. Then a complaint could have been sent to the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for violating the usual diplomatic duty and cooperation spirit. It would have fought on the thread between the two countries, preserved, and possibly official reproaches and regrets, but no more than that. It would not have given rise to any diplomatic crisis of the current dimensions. And it would not have attracted attention at all about the minister’s presence in the Netherlands.

Instead, you chose the slightly heavier “elephant-in-glass shop” procedure that resulted in a screaming minister, with extremely convenient press coverage, being taken away in a car to the border with Germany. A minister who welcomed home on Turkish soil subsequently announced that as a minister, as a Turkish citizen and as a woman, she felt violated and would not tolerate such illegal treatment.

The cynical analysts will not deny that this scenario of Turkish optics – despite the drama – fell quite well in favor of both the minister and the Turkish government

Because without having discussed the forthcoming Turkish vote, attention has been paid to this particular issue. Without discussing either the content or the form of the forthcoming vote, the offense of the affair was conveniently made. Drawing the victim card can give bonus points in an election campaign.

And the same cynical analyst can not deny the somewhat convenient symbolism of the seated government in the Netherlands by throwing a Turkish scarf-dressed, screaming minister at the gate – under proper pressure coverage. It may also pick up a few voices from the right-wing Geert Wilders, who otherwise sit well in the saddle until the election on Wednesday. The cold political heart would think that here, in other words, here is a win-win situation for both parties, despite – or because of – the deafening drama.

The cynical analyst will not deny that this scenario of Turkish optics – despite the drama – fell quite conveniently for the benefit of both the minister and the Turkish government. And the same cynical analyst can not deny the somewhat convenient symbolism of the seated government in the Netherlands by throwing a Turkish scarf-dressed, screaming minister at the gate – under proper pressure coverage. It may also take a few voices from the right-wing Geert Wilders, who otherwise sit well in the saddle until the election on Wednesday.

But it did not happen to the high-ranking escort minister. Shortly after advertised, participate in a campaign meeting in favor of the forthcoming vote, whatever the Dutch authorities may think about it. So he went off to Holland on Saturday.

Prior to his departure, he had threatened with both economic and political sanctions against the Netherlands if he was not allowed to enter. Shortly thereafter, the minister was denied landing permission. When the minister came home after the failed mission, the Dutch embassy in Ankara was closed – allegedly for safety reasons. At the same time, the Dutch ambassador was asked not to come back after leave. And when President Erdogan pulled the Nazi card, the drama was pulled an extra touch.

Turkish stubbornness – what should be good for?

One has to ask yourself what this Turkish insistence on being in Holland should be good for. It seems quite strange with this stubborn desire to come to Holland when you are not actually wanted. But the Dutch handling of the case is about something almost sacred within the rules of diplomacy. Embassies and consulates belong per. definition of the territory of the country in question. Refusing a nation’s nationals access to the territory of this country is problematic.

It is true that rarely falls in good land among European heads of state to call them Nazis and fascists, respectively. It does not just promote cooperation. But conversely, if you can, as a president, convince one’s constituents that you are a nation surrounded by despicable European countries, you can cast votes on the home front.

You are tempted to believe that the Turkish response is to emphasize a point in the current diplomatic rules. To refuse a Turkish citizen – and minister not least – access to Turkish territory is, by far, an unusual situation. And it requires a reaction. Both in foreign and domestic policy terms seen with Turkish optics. The problem is just that it rarely falls in good soil among European leaders to call them Nazis and fascists, respectively. It does not just promote cooperation. But conversely, if you can, as a president, convince one’s constituents that you are a nation surrounded by despicable European countries, you can cast votes on the home front.

Conversely, it must be noted that the entire Turkish campaign is a somewhat unknown phenomenon in the European context. Germany had the week before </ a canceled a similar arrangement with the Turkish Foreign Minister, however, with reference to fire safety considerations. You can hardly blame either Germany or the Netherlands for any doubt about this Turkish campaign event.

Conversely, these countries also do not have such large populations resident abroad that may affect the outcome of the forthcoming vote in Turkey. Alone in Germany there are 1.4 million voting Turkish people. It may be a speech, like a Turkish President, can not be questioned if you are extremely keen on getting your proposal through.

A planned visit to Switzerland for Turkish Foreign Minister has been canceled officially due to lack of room for the campaign meeting. A meeting in France, however, was carried out, and allegedly without banter.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen and double standards

Most recently, the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, has entered the scene and announced that an otherwise planned visit by the Turkish government chief, Binali Yildirim, is now being postponed, referring to the current crisis between Holland and Turkey. Løkke Rasmussen referred as justification for that:

“The Turkish characteristic of Western democracies and the current outcome against Holland will mean that a meeting will now be expressed as an indication that Denmark looks milder on developments in Turkey, which is no way”.

Well, by the way, it is always very nice to express concern when democratic processes are undermined and when a democratically elected president wants new powers, which in principle erode democracy. But the same concern did not seem to arise, as the same number of EU members entered into the refugee agreement with Turkey. In other words, the other legitimate concern does not seem to be the same for the European people elected when cooperation with Turkey comes to its own advantage.

Scenes and theatrical actors

When the worst stage dust has gone over the next few days; and the media have gone on to the next political drama, one will look back on a course of theatrical dimensions with actors who each disdained the rules of diplomacy. Actors who instead chose to use the European scene to earn their own domestic interests. It could be done far more elegant. If that were what you wanted.

Image Source: By Myrat – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15447516

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