The Erdogan government in Turkey is currently in an imbroglio with the escalating standoff over holding political campaigns in European Union nations, posing threats to the already deteriorating ties with the EU ahead of the constitutional referendum on April 16.
The approaching referendum for constitutional change would grant more autocracy to the Turkish president. However, some prominent European nations have hindered Erdogan’s plans to hold rallies in different European countries with large Turkish populations, to win support for plans to expand his powers. It was Netherland that first blocked the move to dispatch Turkish Ministers to organize rallies in the country. Turkey Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was denied landing permission by the authorities to attend a political rally in Rotterdam to win support among the Turkish communities. Turkey’s Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya who came to attend a similar program in Rotterdam via Germany, was also sent back. Those who accompanied her and a few supporters were jailed. The Dutch police used dogs and water cannon to disperse the Turkish protesters outside the consulate in Rotterdam. This ‘humiliating’ move against Turkey took place ahead of the polls on Wednesday in Netherland dominated by right wing extremists.
The hardliners who have been agitated over the presence of refugees from countries like Syria and Iraq and immigrants from neighbouring countries including Turkey, have raised much hue and cry to deport them. The government that equally share the islamophobic and anti-refugee sentiments had no option other than to succumb to the pressure of these right wing extremists. Turkey has, amid its plans for internal democratic expansion, strained its ties with the NATO allies. The country had hosted the maximum number of refugees from West Asian countries including Syria, taking over their responsibility and stopping them from heading into Europe. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is therefore anxious over the ingratitude displayed by the European nations. In return, the EU was to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens. However, the deal has not been implemented. According to Turkey, granting permission to campaign among the Turkish immigrants living in Europe who will be eligible to vote, for a major referendum in the country, was a basic decency and that it was ironical on the part of Europeans, who vouch for the upkeep of democracy, to prevent the political rallies meant for its reinforcement.
Only France has adopted a flexible approach. Germany, Netherlands and Denmark that hosts lakhs of Turkish immigrants have already strained their relations with Turkey because of the rallies. Erdogan criticized that it was the Islamophobic face of Europe, which advocate freedom and democracy that was reflected in the move against Turkey and also accused the countries of Fascism. He warned the nations that they will have to pay the price for ill-treating the Turkish Ministers and citizens. Besides the internal threats, Erdogan’s move has also damaged the relations with foreign allies. Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the international organization dedicated to uphold human rights, democracy and law, monitors the democracy in Turkey and closely observes the country’s governance after the allegations of Erdogan government’s slide towards authoritarian rule following the failed coup. That the present crisis comes during a time when PACE has given the final opportunity for Ankara to give in to scrutiny, is relevant.
According to PACE, democratic rights were frequently violated during the course of eight months of Erdogan governance post the attempted coup. The organization has asked Turkey to get ready for a scrutiny in April. Turkey entered the good books of the organization in 2004. However, the government evoked the council’s displeasure by taking harsh measures against the soldiers, judges and academics for attempting a coup and stringently dealing with a few outfits by branding them as terrorists. It’s during this predicament, that Turkey has locked its horns with the prominent EU nations who have been awaiting an opportunity to target Turkey. It’s the democracy itself that Erdogan and his opponents as well as the opposition uses as their weapon. Turkey and its opponents are at present vying to get control of democracy on their own lines. Their victory and the failure, whoever it is, would not be theirs alone but also of Europe.