‘The AKP regards Turkish immigrants in Europe as hostages or as instruments…’

‘Ankara sees those from Turkey living in Europe as ‘hostages’, as ‘tools’, thus puts their existences, their lives at risk. Those with origins from Turkey who are regarded already as temporary and unsettled in the countries they live in have now become more at risk – regardless whether they support AKP or not, they resorted to their Turkishness, distanced themseles from their pluralistic affiliations. The crisis in bilateral relations will pass quicky, but its negative marks over those originating from Turkey will not be erased so easily.’

 These comments belong to Prof Samim Akgönül, a Turkish political scientist and historian, with University of Strasbourg, France.

gurbet

If, as some of his opponents say, there was a master plan by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to invent a crisis with the European Union, it worked perfectly. With verbal insults, Turkey escalated a diplomatic rift with Germany and the Netherlands.

Both their governments and their people were accused of being Nazis. They found the comments outra­geous but remained unsure of how to respond to Erdogan.

The dispute goes back to Dutch and German decisions to prohibit Turkish ministers from speaking at political rallies in their respec­tive countries. In Germany, several members of Erdogan’s cabinet challenged the restriction, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu insisting on addressing German Turks at a Turkish consulate, in breach of Turkish election law. In the Netherlands, there were tense encounters between two Turkish ministers and Dutch authorities. Cavusoglu was prevented from landing in the Netherlands and was treated as persona non grata.

Turkish Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya, who entered the Netherlands by road, was dealt with even more harshly. She was pre­vented from entering the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam, deported from the country, officially declared persona non grata and, BBC Turkish reported, banned from entering the Schengen area for ten years.

It was an ugly row but, to use the term coined by Erdogan after the coup attempt last July, it came as a gift from God. Turkey’s mercurial president was swift in seizing the events and creating a perfect storm. The ensuing rhetoric and drama lifted his campaign for a “yes” vote in next month’s referendum to new heights.

clash

The German and Dutch gov­ernments were not as crafty as Erdogan. They failed to speedily work out the meaning of his war of words, which came in response to Berlin’s and Amsterdam’s bans on campaigning imposed on Turkey’s ministers.

Over the past three Turkish elec­tions, about 70% of Turks in many EU countries voted for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). By escalating the diplo­matic crisis, Erdogan evidently had a broader agenda: He would whip up anti-Western sentiment among conservative pro-AKP voters at home to consolidate support for a “yes” vote in the ref­erendum. The strategy could even help with undecided voters, which recent surveys put at 10%.

It worked. Pro-Erdogan crowds were mobilised in Rotterdam and the clashes that erupted gave Er­dogan material to abuse the Dutch even more furiously. He went on to accuse them of involvement in the genocide in Srebrenica and imposed diplomatic sanctions.

Until Erdogan started the fight with Germany and the Netherlands, domestic surveys showed the ref­erendum vote about 50-50. Now, if opinion polls are reliable, the “yes” camp feels more confident.

The Turkish opposition said Germany and the Netherlands fell into Erdogan’s trap by cur­tailing freedom of expression. A row broke out between opposition parties in Turkey and Turkish, Kurdish, secular groups in Germany that largely supported the ban.

The crisis is definitely a game changer.

  • First, Erdogan’s gamble has already paid off. No matter who wins this year’s Dutch, French and German elections, Erdogan has improved his chances of getting a “yes” vote, which would enable his presidency to accrue even more power. He will have positioned Turkey as a country that espouses nationalist and Islamist ideas.
  • Second, Erdogan has done just what Russian President Vladimir Putin would have wanted: He sowed further division within the Euro­pean Union. In a broader context, he played up the clash of civilisations idea.
  • Third, Erdogan signalled that he is ready to break loose from the Euro­pean Union, leaving it with only one choice — at best, a privileged partner­ship that is focused on trade and the agreement on stemming the refugee flow to Europe.
  • Fourth, the European Union, which has kept quiet about human rights violations in Turkey to preserve its own self-interest, may be facing its moment of reckoning.

It is clear that the 60-year Turkish- EU relations will hardly recover from this crisis. More importantly, the real victims of Erdogan’s ruthless policy of crisis after crisis will be European Turks, who will face the risk of being targeted and branded as undesirable elements on European soil.

Compari­sons are being already made between them and the Jews and Roma in 1930s Germany.

Does Erdogan care about that?

If so, his concern might involve using them as bargaining chips.

In the latest phase of the spat he went as far as issuing new threats to Europe.

As reported by the Independent:

Europeans across the world will not be able to walk the streets safely if they keep up their current attitude towards Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets. We, as Turkey, call on Europe to respect human rights and democracy,” Mr Erdogan told journalists in Ankara.

 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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