Turkey’s relations with Austria, Germany and Holland are quickly deteriorating due to Turkish politicians campaigning in Europe
One would think that a prospective EU member state and NATO ally such as Turkey would have amiable relations with Europeans countries, but as recent developments illustrate this is far from the case. Turkey’s relations with Europe, particularly Austria, Germany and Holland, are becoming increasingly strained. The situation has been exacerbated by Turkish politicians wanting to campaign in Germany and other European countries in favor of the yes vote in the upcoming Turkish referendum.
Before we delve into this particular row, it seems best to layout why Turkish-European relations have already been souring. From Turkey’s perspective there are a number of problems with Europe. The latter has not fully upheld the migrant deal, are being difficult in negotiations over Turkey’s accession to the EU, are not granting Turkish citizens visa-free travel to the Schengen area, are not extraditing alleged coup plotters back to Turkey, are unfairly critical of Turkey’s response to the July 15 attempted coup, and are supportive of various terrorists groups that are currently troubling Turkey, among other issues.
The Europeans also have their own problems with Turkey, notwithstanding their frequent past appeasement towards them which may finally come to an end if relations further deteriorate. Some in Europe view Turkey as becoming increasingly authoritarian and Islamist. Civil liberties are becoming less and less respected in Turkey, especially following the July 15 attempted coup. Turkey seems more concerned with fighting the Kurds than destroying ISIL. Furthermore, Turkish diplomatic reactions towards Europe are rather strident and at times arrogant. With Turkey drifting away from ‘European values’, many leery Europeans are adopting a tougher stance against their ostensible ally.
This is the general over view of the underlying tensions between Turkey and Europe, but there are specific incidents that have also been a source of contention. Lets start with Turkey’s relations with Germany.
One of the first incidents that drew the ire of Turkey was when comedian Jan Böhmermann recited a lewd anti-Erdoğan poem on a German TV program. This prompted German authorities to investigate Böhmermann, while Erdoğan filed charges against him.1 Eventually the charges were dropped and German authorities decided to scrap the archaic “lese majeste” law which Böhmermann was charged under, however a German court upheld the ban of certain parts of the anti-Erdoğan poem.2
In December of 2016 a Turkish Parliament Deputy Speaker Ayşenur Bahçekapılı was temporarily held up in Cologne due to passport problems.3 An unimpressed Erdoğan responded: “You take and host terrorists but you make the deputy parliamentary speaker of this country wait for hours at the airport. Shouldn’t we do the same to them? And then they call Erdoğan a dictator! … Turkey will have to retaliate in kind if the necessary actions are not taken against the officers involve.”
The Germans have also withheld “unfiltered access to imagery gathered by its Tornado fighter jets operating out of the İncirlik Air Base” from Turkey over concerns the latter will use this intelligence against the Kurds.4
Germany has also been aggravated by the Turks. Around November 2015 Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu refused to take two phone calls from his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.5 According to a rather undiplomatic Çavuşoğlu “They think Germany is a superior country and expect us to be ready to pick up the phone whenever they are ready. We are not loafing around here; we also have things to do.”
Then in December, Bild reported that a suspected Turkish spy, who was arrested in Germany, was planning to assassinate two high-profile Kurds.6 It also appears that Turkey is using their imams to spy in Germany. A big scandal broke when “The German-based Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) has said some of its preachers acted as informants on sympathizers of the Gülen movement.”7 It was reported that Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) had ordered DİTİB to conduct such spying and although the Diyanet denies such allegations, they have recalled a number of imams implicated in the scandal.8
With German authorities investigating the allegations, the head of the Diyanet Mehmet Görmez described the investigation as a “defamation campaign” and stated “It is unacceptable for Islamophobic hate to become an [issue] in the election atmosphere.”9 He also condemned German police house raids of four Turkish clerics.10 Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş also criticized the raids “Searching the houses of these people who are doing religious services, which is also for the benefit of German society, and taking steps against them by calling them ‘criminals’ will make Germany ashamed in the end.”11 Rather comically the Turkish pro-government Star daily called the German investigation “Merkelist Terror.”12
Turkish relations with Austria and Holland
Austria and Turkey have also been involved in a number of squabbling incidents. In August 2016 the news headline “Turkey allows sex with children under the age of 15” was displayed at Vienna airport, prompting Turkey to summon the Austrian charge d’affaires.13 Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has been critical of the migrant deal with Turkey arguing “We must not give in to blackmail and therefore do not need a plan B. We at last need a proper plan A. If we take the necessary action, we do not need a plan B, so no deal with Turkey.”14 Kurz has also advocated that negotiations over Turkey’s accession to the EU be frozen.15 Erdoğan’s adviser Burhan Kuzu seemed to be getting frustrated with Austria’s stance towards Turkey, causing him to berate Austrian Prime Minister Christian Kern by tweeting “F..k off, infidel. EU is sinking & NATO is nothing without Turkey.”16
Holland has also had its problems with Turkey. In April 2016 the Turkish government asked ethnic Turks living the Netherlands “to report individuals who insult the Turkey [sic] or its president.”17 Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte seemed rather befuddled by the request stating “I am surprised. It’s not clear what the Turkish government aims to achieve with this action.” Turkish officials were also concerned about unflattering cartoons of Erdoğan published in the Netherlands.
It also appears that the Diyanet branch in Holland was spying on suspected Gülenists and sending the information back to Turkey.18 The Turkish Embassy’s religious affairs attaché Yusuf Acar was also accused by Dutch authorities of gathering intelligence against the Gülen movement.19 After receiving a “deportation warning” Acar was recalled back to Turkey.
Turkish campaigning in Europe worsening the situation
As demonstrated, there are plenty of reasons why Turkey and its ostensible allies Austria, Germany and Holland are not getting along. However around three weeks ago relations between the Turks and these nations further deteriorated, due to the campaigning of Turkish politicians in these countries.
On April 16 a referendum will be held in which Turkish citizens decide whether or not they want to adopt Erdoğan’s Presidential system. Many Turks who live in Europe are eligible to vote in the referendum and Erdoğan is keen to capture this significant block of potential voters (in Germany alone there are ~1.4 million such potential voters). As such Erdoğan has planned to send numerous government officials, including himself, to speak at rallies in various European countries in support of the yes vote.
One of the first such rallies was in Oberhausen Germany on February 18 when Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım addressed around 10,000 Turks. Even before the event occurred many German politicians, from across the political spectrum, were against it, as they saw the event as a foreign leader campaigning in favor of dictatorial reforms.20 FDP member Wolfgang Kubicki described the rally as an advertisement on German territory “for an autocratic system in Turkey” while leftist Sevim Dagdelen declared “Yildirim’s advertising campaign for a dictatorship in Turkey absolutely has to be prevented.”
I am sure these German politicians were further incensed after they heard what Yıldırım said during the rally. The Turkish Prime Minister complained “Unfortunately, terrorist organizations are allowed to swarm around here and in this geography.”21 So Yıldırım runs a political rally in a foreign country and then criticizes that country for harboring terrorists (i.e. the Kurds and Gülenists)! It was then announced that in March Erdoğan himself would speak at a rally, which a poll found that 77% of German respondents were against.22
Turkish Justice Minister blocked from giving rally in Gaggenau
It appears that Turkey’s impudence and its promotion of authoritarianism has finally caused Germans to take action. On March 2 German authorities cancelled an event in which Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ was set to speak.23 The official reason for the cancellation was due to capacity problems at the venue, but I suspect the real reason was to prevent a Turkish official from political campaigning on German soil.
As can be expected the Turks were not too happy with this cancellation. Bozdağ responded:24
“Since the meeting in Gaggenau was cancelled, I have cancelled the rendezvous with the German minister. We will not have the meeting. We are returning to Turkey. It is not acceptable that the German authorities, who make speeches about human rights, democracy, the rule of law and freedom of expression, and who accuse all except themselves of being lacking on these issues, cannot tolerate a meeting of the Turkish community.”
He also said:25
“It is very clear that this decision was a scandalous one beyond the municipality. It is a decision against diplomatic courtesy. Germany and German authorities, which keep mentioning democracy, state of law, human rights and rule of law while accusing everyone else but themselves non-compliance with democracy and human rights, have barred the Turkish community from its right of assembly, a principle of universal law, human rights convention. … We were saying that the Berlin Wall had long been torn down but we see that there are ideological Berlin walls which continue to exist throughout Germany and new ones are also being built.”
Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu blamed the “German deep state” saying “This move of Germany denounces democracy, the right to assembly and freedom of expression.”26 He also expressed his defiance against Germany: “None of you can prevent us. We can go anywhere we want, we can meet our citizens and hold our meetings.”27 However, it looks like Çavuşoğlu could not go anywhere he wanted in Germany, as authorities in Hamburg moved the venue of an upcoming rally he was set to speak at to a different unspecified location over “serious fire safety hazards.”28 This prompted Çavuşoğlu to reiterate himself “I will get together with my fellow citizens in Hamburg. No one can stop this, and no one should try to.”29
Binali Yıldırım had this to say on the matter:30
“Let those European countries impose bans against Turkey. It would be their disgrace not ours. However, such actions are not an execution of a ‘friendly state.’ Such bans are a reflection of the political ideology remaining from World War II and shows the countries imposing the bans are uneasy with democracy and freedom.”
Not surprisingly, President Erdoğan could not contain his rancor towards Germany. First he shot back at the Germans by stating “They need to be put on trial for aiding and abetting terror, [for] letting the members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders to hold rallies while preventing Turkish leaders from addressing their communities.”31 He was referring to PKK member Cemil Bayık recently speaking to a crowd in Germany and he was probably also angered by German officials allowing a CHP member to campaign in a town in favor of the no vote.32
Erdoğan also stooped to comparing current day Germany to their Nazi forefathers saying:33
“Germany, you have no relation whatsoever to democracy. You should know that your current actions are no different to those of the Nazi period. They get disturbed when we say this. Why are you disturbed? … I thought Germany left [Nazi practices] behind a long time ago. We are mistaken. You lecture us about democracy but then you don’t let this country’s ministers speak there.”
He also declared “Now they think Tayyip Erdoğan wants to go to Germany. I will go if I want to. If you don’t let me in, or restrain me from giving a speech, then I will stir up the world.”34
Even Turkey’s opposition political parties are against the Europeans. Devlet Bahçeli leader of the MHP was in league with his Erdoğan stating “If Mr. President decides to go to Europe, he is not alone in his decision. As the MHP leader, I would come to Europe along with him.”35 He also stated “It is a right and a must for political parties to inform citizens living in Europe on the April 16 referendum. Why was Germany bothered by this? What is the main reason behind curbing freedom of speech?”36 Such solidarity between the AKP and MHP is not overly surprising because the latter has officially backed the yes vote in the upcoming referendum.
Even Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu leader of the CHP, which supports the no vote, is critical of Germany’s actions.37 According to him “The speeches of two Justice and Development Party [AKP] lawmakers who were due to speak in Germany were canceled. This can never be right. You teach democracy to the world but you forbid two ministers from speaking with this or that excuse. Everybody should express their opinions freely.” Osman Baydemir spokesperson of the HDP, a party that is no friend of the AKP, also argued “Politicians should be able to express their opinion wherever they wish to express it. They should not be precluded, banned or marginalized.”
German response to Turkey’s criticisms
In a letter to his Turkish counterpart, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas defended Germany’s actions by pointing out Turkey’s poor treatment of journalist.38 Many in Germany were offended by Turkish officials characterizing them as Nazis. Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff, called such insults as “absolutely unacceptable” and warned “There is absolutely no reason to allow ourselves to be reproached over this.”39 Merkel herself demanded “These comparisons of Germany with Nazism must stop. They are unworthy of the close ties between Germany and Turkey and of our peoples.”40 Even Gökay Sofuoğlu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany was critical stating “Erdoğan went a step too far. Germany should not sink to his level.”41
As this spat was ongoing Yıldırım had a “good and productive” phone conversation with Merkel, while Foreign Ministers Çavuşoğlu and Sigmar Gabriel met in Berlin in what was described as a “very tough” but “friendly” meeting.42 However, as we shall see these conversations have done little to improve the situation.
Austria backs Germany
Austria has lent their support to Germany. Their Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has argued against Erdoğan campaigning in Europe. He stated “Campaign events are not welcome. Of course the Turkish president, like other senior politicians, can make bilateral visits to Europe and Austria for talks with top officials. But we clearly reject bringing the Turkish campaign and polarization to Austria.”43 In response to Kern’s statement the Turkish Foreign Ministry equated him with “racist and anti-Islam approaches.”44
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern also proposed a Europe wide ban on Turkish campaigning. According to him “A collective EU response to prevent such campaign events would make sense so that individual countries like Germany where appearances are forbidden don’t end up being pressured by Turkey.”45 Çavuşoğlu responded to Kern’s proposal as expected stating “The Austrian chancellor should first take a look at his own country. One of the trends that is an enemy of human rights and values is racism and today Austria is the capital of radical racism.”46
Not put off by harsh Turkish criticisms, local Austrian authorities have cancelled three planned meeting (in Linz, Hoerbranz and Herzogenburg) to be attended by Turkish politicians who are stumping for the yes vote.47
The Dutch are also standing up against Turkey
The other European country which is getting into it with Turkey over this matter is the Netherlands. Çavuşoğlu was scheduled to attend a rally on March 11 in Rotterdam but his appearance was effectively banned by the Dutch government. According to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte “We will not cooperate with this. We find this undesirable. We believe that the Dutch public space is not the place for political campaigns in other countries.”48 The mayor of Rotterdam, who incidentally is a Muslim, also did not want Çavuşoğlu to campaign in his city. He said Çavuşoğlu “has diplomatic immunity and everything so we will treat him with respect, but we have other instruments to prohibit things happening in public spaces.”49
Çavuşoğlu responded to such objections “I will go to the Netherlands, no such obstacle can stop us… We will not succumb to fascists and racists like Wilders.”50
Rutte was also displeased with Erdoğan comparing his country to the Nazis. He responded “It’s a crazy remark, of course. I understand they’re angry, but this, of course, was way out of line.”51
Çavuşoğlu blocked from entering the Netherlands and another minister deported
While the issue of Turkish campaigning came to the forefront in Germany, it is now the Netherlands which is the focal point of it following the Dutch government’s decision to bar Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from entering their country. On March 11 Çavuşoğlu’s flight clearance was denied by Dutch authorities thereby preventing him from attending the Rotterdam rally.52 Rutte justified the decision on facebook posting “these gatherings may not contribute to tensions in our society and everyone who wants to hold a gathering is obliged to follow instructions of those in authority so that public order and safety can be guarantee.”
While Çavuşoğlu was blocked from entering the Netherlands by air, Turkish Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, who was in Germany, attempted to reach Rotterdam by car to attend the rally. However Dutch police blocked the roads leading to the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, thereby preventing Kaya from entering the facility.53 Kaya was subsequently deported from Holland, prompting her to demand “the whole world must take action against this fascist practice! Such a treatment against a woman minister cannot be accepted.”54 Upon arriving in Istanbul she also claimed that Dutch authorities treated her inhumanely.55
Following these dramatic events, all hell has broken loose diplomatically between Holland and Turkey. Çavuşoğlu described Dutch actions as “a scandal from every aspect and it is not acceptable. It does not fit into diplomatic practice. This is the most extreme point in diplomacy.56 He also called Holland the “the capital of fascism” and also blamed Geert Wilders, saying “Because this is what Wilders wanted. If you had seen Wilder’s posts on social media, he was very pleased. Well then, what is the difference between the current Dutch government and Wilders? There is no difference. It is the same mindset, same fascism.”57 Wilders, who claimed to played an important role in the banning of Çavuşoğlu, stated “I say to the Turks who have same thoughts with Erdogan ‘Go to Turkey and never come back.”
Çavuşoğlu also warned: “To begin with, this will have a response. Apologizing is not enough. We have begun to give a response and said the ambassador should not come to the country and he cannot. We will take steps and then the Netherlands will apologize. Otherwise, we will continue to take these steps.”58
Erdoğan responded “If you sacrifice your relationship with Turkey for the elections [Dutch general election on March 15], you will pay the price. We have yet not done what is required. I thought that Nazism was over, but I was wrong. In fact, Nazism is up on its feet in the West.”59 He also said “This cannot be left without a response. Those who treat me, my minister, my deputies with disrespect will pay the price for their actions. Those who attack my citizens with horses and dogs will pay the price.”60 The last sentence refers to Turkish protests within the Netherlands which were broken up by Dutch police using dogs, which Çavuşoğlu referred to as the “Dogs of Wilders.”61
Erdoğan also threatened “From now on, let’s see how Dutch diplomatic planes will land on Turkish soil?”62 Already the Dutch ambassador to Turkey, who is out of the country on vacation, has been advised by Turkish officials not to return to Turkey for a while.63 So it appears that Turkey is engaging in tit for tat behavior.
Even Kılıçdaroğlu advocated suspending diplomatic relations with the Netherlands if they do not allow Turkish ministers to enter their country and he has argued that Turkey has the right to impose sanctions in retaliation.64 He went further complaining “They say ‘wait until April 16.’ Why? The ruling party is in, the opposition is providing support. We will provide support until the end. Why don’t you do it then? Suspend all relations with the Netherlands.”65
Within Turkey many people have taken to the streets to protest, as have Turks in Holland.66 In Ankara protests outside the Dutch Embassy removed a “Hollanda” street sign.67 The protesters were also chanting “We will crush all of you [Europe], starting with the Netherlands.” Early in the day another protestor lowered the Dutch flag and raised the Turkish flag in its place.68 While this was being done other protestors were chanting “Allah-u-akbar.” Carrying banners saying “Fascist Netherlands” and “Fascist Rutte”, youth members of the AKP protested by “squeezing oranges and drinking the juice.”69 The situation in Turkey is such that Dutch authorities have advised citizens traveling in Turkey to “Stay alert across the whole of Turkey and avoid gatherings and crowded places.”70
While the Dutch do not appear to be wavering from their actions, Prime Minister Rutte wishes for the situation to de-escalate. He said “I’ve never experienced this before, but we want to be the more prudent party. If they escalate we will have to respond, but we will do everything in our power to de-escalate.”71 However, Rutte does not appear interested in offering an apology to his Turkish counterparts. When asked on the matter he responded “This is a man who yesterday made us out for fascists and a country of Nazis. I’m going to de-escalate, but not by offering apologies. Are you nuts?”72
It also appears that the EU is taking a firm stand against the Turks. It has been reported that “The European Union has moved to freeze funding towards Turkey via the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) ad it was deemed the country was drifting away from European principles.”73 EU official Johannes Hahn asked Turkey calm down their rhetoric stating “The EU calls on Turkey to refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation. Matters of concern can only be resolved through open and direct communication channels.”74
Who is in the right?
So what are we to make of these developments and the deteriorating relations between Turkey and Germany, Austria and the Netherlands? In all honesty, it is not a trivial question whether or not Turkish politicians should be able to campaign in Europe. If there are significant populations of Turks eligible to vote in the upcoming Turkish referendum living in European countries, is it so terrible that Turkish politicians appeal to this electorate either in support of the yes or no vote? After all are not such rallies protected by freedom of speech and assembly, liberties which European elites are so keen to promote in other countries?
First of all most European leaders could care less about democracy and freedoms. Most of them are truly hypocrites on such matters, supporting these ‘European values’ when it suits them and ignoring them when it does not. In my view the EU is a highly anti-democratic system disdainful of individual freedoms and liberties. However, even if European leaders truly cared about freedom of expression, that freedom applies to citizens of the countries in question and not necessarily to foreign nationals, even highfalutin politicians from Turkey. If Germany does not want Turkish politicians campaigning in their country, it is not in my opinion contrary to freedom of speech to prohibit them from doing so.
Furthermore, many people believe, including myself, that the presidential reforms that Erdoğan and his minions are campaigning in favor of are authoritarian in nature. This means if the reforms are implemented Turkey will become less democratic and have less individual freedoms and liberties. The very things that the Turks are complaining about with respect to Europe would materialize in their country, even to a greater degree than in Europe, if the system they are campaigning for is enacted. So in effect Erdoğan is using democracy and freedom of expression in Europe to undermine democracy and freedom of expression in Turkey.
Another point in support of the Europeans, is the haughtiness and, as Wolfgang Kubicki said, the “impudence” of the Turks. Whether or not one likes or agrees with the actions of Germany and the Netherlands, is it not ridiculous that Turkish officials immediately and vociferously responded with claims of fascism and Naziism towards the Germans and Dutch? I find it odd that the Turks who are angered any time anyone suggests that there may be a connection between Islam and terrorism and aver that such suggestions are counterproductive and even foment terrorism, would themselves denigrate Europeans as being fascists.
Are not such taunts counterproductive? Will they not anger most Europeans who think fascism to be abhorrent? Will not this anger work against what Turkey is trying to do within Europe? And could not such anger possibly foment the very extremism that Turkey is accusing Holland of possessing? But at this point the hypocrisy of Erdoğan and his government should come as no surprise. With this in mind I do not think that Europe is out of line in their response to Turkey, although to a certain degree I can understand Turkish displeasure at such a response.
How did Europe grow a spine?
Another interesting aspect of this situation is Europe’s, particularly Germany’s and Holland’s new-found resolve and toughness against Turkey. It seems that European leaders, much to my surprise and hesitantly to my delight, have developed a spine. How could such a remarkable thing happen?
While the leaders, politicians and technocrats of Europe (i.e. the ruling class) are mainly leftists and statists of various kinds who in general are placating towards Islam, at a certain point and time even mush-heads such as these can only take so much crap. The Turkish government is rather haughty and imperious in their dealings with other nations, and the European ruling class are gaining plenty of firsthand experience of this. It could very well be that Europe’s elites no longer want to be pushed around and condescended to by the Turks and have therefore finally decided to push back.
I also suspect that Turkey’s rhetoric of denigrating European leaders as fascists and Nazis is not helping the situation. Very few people enjoy being called a Nazi, especially when they are not one.* Furthermore, people like Merkel are usually the ones who label their political opponents as Nazis. Of course they do so euphemistically by labeling others as far-right or ultranationalists, but it is clear what they are implying. So it must be particularly vexing to Merkel and company when they are at the receiving end of such calumny.
There is also another reason, while the ruling class of Europe may be very leftist almost to the point of derangement, I suspect that the average Europeans (i.e. their subjects), even the ones that voted for them, are nowhere near as ideologically fervent. As such normal Europeans are probably even more so offended by Turkey’s behavior and are starting to get fed up with it. This anger may manifest itself in support for more nationalistic and right-wing parties such the Afd in Germany, the PVV in Holland or the FN in France. If the establishment lets Turkey have free reign in Europe, then these parties may be politically strengthened at the expense of themselves.
It is probably no coincidence that a number of elections are upcoming in Europe. In the Netherlands on March 15 a general election will be held (only a day away), hence Rutte acting tough and like a strong leader. It is also reported that Geert Wilders and his party the PVV have played an important role in the ‘banning’ of the Turkish Foreign Minister, again because Rutte probably does not want to anger PVV supporters or those considering voting the PVV. A Similar situation is also occurring in Germany. While the election will not be held until September, Merkel is already under significant pressure from socialist challenger Martin Schulz the former President of the European Parliament.
So it is possible that the leaders of Europe are not that bothered by what the Turkish officials are doing, only that they are trying to maintain political power and contain their political opponents, particular from the far-right.
Possible outcomes of the diplomatic crisis
One has to wonder what will be the result of the diplomatic falling out between Turkey and Germany and the Netherlands. One possible scenario is that the situation will further deteriorate, causing diplomatic relations between these countries to be severed. Turkey may impose sanctions against Germany, Holland and possibly other Europeans countries. On the other side the Europeans would probably not grant Turkish citizens visa free travel to the EU and, at least for the short term, the prospects of Turkey joining the EU would be nil.
Under such a worst case scenario, it is unlikely that military hostilities would erupt between Turkey and the Europeans, the crisis would be limited to the diplomatic, and possibly the economic, realm. For Europe probably the worst counteraction that Turkey could take is abandoning the migrant deal and beginning to release hordes of migrants into Europe. If this were to occur migrant influxes into Europe could reach or even exceed the levels seen in 2015. Already European Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik has commented “I believe, especially the land passage component of the migrant deal with the European Union, should be reconsidered.”75
It is also possible that nothing too serious may result from the current problems and that in the medium term relations between Turkey and Europe will normalize. It should be remembered that when Russia and Turkey had their own problems, many including myself, speculated that outright conflict could erupt between the two. Instead the problem was resolved and Russia and Turkey are currently, for the moment, cooperating with each other, and their relations have been steadily improving. Such a turn around could happen between Turkey and Europe, especially if European leaders are acting strong towards Turkey due to domestic electoral considerations. Once those elections have passed and if the establishment wins, then reconciliation between Turkey and Europe may be a likely prospect.
Probably the most likely outcome is that Geert Wilders may get a boost in the upcoming election and put in an impressive performance. The Dutch may be tolerant people, but it appears they are not immune from getting peeved by Turkey’s behavior, which may energy PVV supporters and cause some undecided voters to lend their support to the PVV. This would be an ironic outcome as Turkey has been criticizing the Netherlands as being fascist and yet it is that criticism which may lead to those the Turks consider to be fascists getting increased political powers in the Netherlands. It is already being reported that up to date surveying data shows Wilders gaining momentum from the events that have unfolded over the last few days.76 Maybe Turkey’s defamatory rhetoric will backfire.
It is also possible that another election may be affected, that of the upcoming referendum in Turkey. According to AKP deputy Hüseyin Kocabıyık the recent diplomatic scuffle has “made at least a two-point contribution to our ‘yes’ votes.”77 He also concluded “I can say with certainty that these events will lead to a significant increase in the [yes] votes of our citizens in Europe and will also seriously influence both the undecided and naysayers Turkey.”
Supporting Kocabıyık claims is the fact that many people in Turkey, such as opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu, who are normally very critical of Erdoğan, are currently quite supportive of the President against the Europeans. Actually one of Kılıçdaroğlu’s main criticisms is that Turkey has not been assertive enough in responding to the Dutch banning of Çavuşoğlu and deportation of Kaya. It could very well be possible that Turks will rally behind Erdoğan against the common ‘enemy’ of Holland and Germany, and this increased solidarity could cause more people to vote yes in the referendum.
It will be interesting to see how this whole drama unfolds in the coming days and weeks. I suspect we will keep hearing Turkish cries of fascism and Naziism against Europe. Hopefully Turkey’s arrogant behavior will finally cause Europe–its people and ruling class–to wake up and stop being so limp-wristed towards them. Just maybe Europe will realize that Turkey is not really an useful ally, but is something much more pernicious.
References and Notes
 https://www.rt.com/news/361645-germany-court-erdogan-comedian/ , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/germany-to-scrap-lese-majeste-law-after-turkey-row-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=109011&NewsCatID=351 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/german-court-upholds-ban-on-poem-insulting-erdogan-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=109595&NewsCatID=351
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/ankarasummons-german-ambassador-over-misbehavior-against-turkishdeputy-parliament-speaker.aspx?pageID=238&nID=107011&NewsCatID=510 , http://en.protothema.gr/diplomatic-incident-between-turkey-and-germany/
 https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/01/13/turkish-imams-germany-admit-spying-gulen-movement/ , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/01/24/report-spying-charges-against-turkish-imams-in-germany-expand/ , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/02/04/spying-allegations-turkish-imams-germany-continue-expand/
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/dutch-pm-wants-answers-on-turkeys-call-to-report-insults-.aspx?PageID=238&NID=98169&NewsCatID=351 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?pageID=238&nID=98207&NewsCatID=510
 https://www.turkishminute.com/2016/12/14/turkish-dutch-mosque-leader-accused-spying-erdogan/ , https://www.turkishminute.com/2016/12/14/dutch-fm-summon-turkish-ambassador-diyanets-intelligence-activities/
 https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/02/22/german-daily-says-erdogan-hold-referendum-rally-germany-march/ , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/02/27/77-percent-germans-erdogan-referendum-rally-germany
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/i-will-stir-up-the-world-if-they-block-me-from-speaking-in-germany-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110495&NewsCatID=510 , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/03/06/video-president-erdogan-will-come-germany-want/
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-pm-merkel-hold-productive-good-conversation.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110444&NewsCatID=510 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-german-fms-in-tense-but-friendly-meet.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110565&NewsCatID=351
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-harshly-slams-austrias-top-diplomat-over-remarks-on-erdogan-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110258&NewsCatID=510 , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/02/28/turkey-calls-austrian-fm-racist-islamophobic-erdogan-rally-debate/
 https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/03/04/dutch-government-says-turkish-fms-referendum-campaign-netherlands-undesirable/ , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/the-netherlands-joins-germany-in-row-over-turkish-meetings.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110459&NewsCatID=510
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-will-not-succumb-to-fascists-and-racists-like-dutch-politician-wilders-fm.aspx?pageID=517&nID=110618&NewsCatID=510 , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/03/08/breaking-turkish-fm-cavusoglu-cancels-referendum-speech-netherlands/
 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/mevlut-cavusoglu-continues-verbal-assault-holland-170312141645541.html , https://www.dailysabah.com/eu-affairs/2017/03/11/fm-cavusoglu-vows-to-retaliate-after-netherlands-blocks-plane-landing
 https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2017/03/11/erdogan-slams-netherlands-hints-retaliation-over-revoke-of-fms-landing-permit , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/03/11/erdogan-threatens-not-allow-dutch-planes-land-turkey-row-fm-visit/
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/main-opposition-leader-calls-on-govt-to-suspend-relations-with-netherlands.aspx?pageID=238&nID=110705&NewsCatID=510 , https://www.turkishminute.com/2017/03/11/chp-leader-says-turkey-right-impose-sanctions-netherlands-dutch-ban/
[*] It could be argued that the EU is actually a fascistic system and therefore that EU officials are fascists of sorts. Some people have claimed that the modern day EU, was basically born out of a Nazi German plot. Realizing that they would lose the Second World War, some Nazis, still wanting to dominate Europe, came up with a new strategy. Instead of conquering Europe with the panzer and the Stuka they would do so more insidiously through economic and political supranational organizations (i.e. the EU). However, such an interesting topic is the matter for a future post.