Dutch envoy Daan Feddo Huisinga was summoned Monday by the Turkish foreign minister for the third time in as many days to receive a diplomatic dressing down.
The verbal salvo reportedly was for the crackdown by Dutch police on ethnic Turks who demonstrated Saturday in Rotterdam over the removal of Turkish Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya from the Netherlands.
Turkish pro-government newspapers Monday published photos of police dogs biting demonstrators, with one headline reading “Nazi Dogs.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called the Dutch government “Nazis” for preventing two of his ministers from speaking at a rally for ethnic Turks in support of an April referendum to extend presidential powers.
“I think its very serious because words and remarks have been exchanged, that have never been exchanged before and there was Turkish demonstrators that were attacked by police in the Netherlands,” warns Political columnist Semih Idiz of Al Monitor Website, “I think the government support base in Turkey will be clamoring for some kind of serious retaliation. So the prospectfor the situation escalating rather than deescalating are quite high at the moment.”
Despite Erdogan dominating most of the media, substantial funds, and his formidable campaign skills, opinion polls suggest he is struggling to win referendum support for the controversial proposal to extend his powers.
“As it stands right now my gut feeling tells me, the No votes are ahead or at leastAKP doesn’t have the kind confidence it has had in past polls that it will win,” said political consultant Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners.
Yesilada suggests there is political advantage to be had from the crisis for Erdogan, “So the AKP wants to fortify the nationalist vote. You know this kind of clashes which are exaggerated by Mr. Erdogan’s rhetoric does reinforce the view that the European powers are our enemies and that Mr. Erdogan is steadfastly fighting for our rights.”
The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdarolgu who is leading the No vote campaign has been in the forefront of condemning the Dutch government, calling for a suspension of diplomatic relations.
Observers say such a stance is probably aimed at mitigating any voting advantage Erdogan is seeking to achieve.
Despite Erdogan’s tough rhetoric promising severe sanctions against the Netherlands, no concrete steps have been taken.
“All we know at momentis the Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci has come out and say they are not considering economic sanctions because obviously it will hurt Turkey too.” notes Columnist Idiz. He argues Ankara may have few cards to play. “I think it will be more on diplomatic side, cancelation of visits not allowing transit flight for official Dutch planes, not commercial planes, and that of sort of thing. Canceling conferences and whatever.”
With other European countries too, banning Turkish ministers from addressing referendum rallies, the prospect of the crisis deepening and spreading remains real.
“On the European side they want to downplay the situation. I noticed that Germany is trying to take that kind of approach,” notes columnist Idiz, “but the European side might want to take a united front at the end of the day against Turkey.”
Monday EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said, “The EU calls on Turkey to refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk to further exacerbate the situation.”
Some Turkish pro-government media have suggested the refugee deal between Ankara and the European Union that has stemmed the flood of people into Europe could be in jeopardy over the crisis.
Analysts suggest Ankara would be reluctant to take such a step, with the refugee deal being one of few remaining ties that underpins its relations with Europe, as well as being an important piece of leverage
Despite such leverage, the latest crisis could ultimately prove to be the tipping point in Turkish European relations, “For Austria Netherlands Germany, and all the other countries are getting sick and tired of Turkey. And I anticipate that at some point , there will be sanctions i have no doubt about that,” said consultant Yesilada.