Turkey accuses the EU of ‘exercising democracy selectively’ as a diplomatic row with Netherlands escalates

Demonstrators gather outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam.
Thomson Reuters

Turkey’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said the European Union was exercising democratic values selectively and that it should not be standing by the Netherlands, which it accused of violating human rights and European values.

Ankara has suspended high-level diplomatic relations after Dutch authorities prevented its ministers from speaking at rallies of expatriate Turks, worsening a row between the NATO allies.

In a joint statement on Monday, EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn called on Turkey to refrain from “excessive statements” to avoid further escalating the dispute.

The Turkish foreign ministry rejected the EU’s request, which it described as “worthless.”

“EU counterparts are exercising democratic values and basic rights and freedoms selectively,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “It is very grave for the EU to hide behind member country solidarity and stand by the Netherlands, which has clearly violated human rights and European values,” it said.

Mogherini and Hahn’s statement included “inaccurate assessments”, the foreign ministry said.

“It should be understood that the EU’s statement… actually helps the cause of extremes such as xenophobia and anti-Turkish sentiment,” it said.

President Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking Turkish voters’ support in an April 16 referendum on boosting his powers as head of state, had accused the Dutch government of acting like “Nazi remnants” for barring his ministers.

The Dutch government said there were “risks to public order and security” if the rally took place and therefore decided to block it. Germany and Austria have also prevented those rallies but the French government allowed them.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Thomson Reuters

The sanctions include the banning of the Dutch ambassador and diplomatic flights from the Netherlands. They do not appear to include economic measures or travel restrictions for ordinary citizens.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Tuesday said that the sanctions were “not too bad” but were inappropriate as the Dutch have more to be angry about.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also came to the defence of the Netherlands and rejected the comments Erdogan made against the Dutch as completely unacceptable: “Germany completely rejects rhetorical and any other comparisons with the National Socialists made by the Turkish president,” Merkel said, adding she had already condemned Nazi analogies he had leveled against Germany in a speech in parliament last week.

“This rejection is also valid for our allies, such as the Netherlands. These comparisons are completely misguided. They trivialize the suffering. Particularly in the Netherlands that endured so much agony through the National Socialists, it’s just completely unacceptable.”