Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has lashed out at his Dutch allies, calling them “Nazi remnants” and “fascists” after they refused to allow two of his ministers to campaign in the small country on the North Sea.
Erdoğan earlier called the Germans “fascists” as well when they canceled a demonstration in support of his plans to expand the Turkish presidency.
Dutch officials had asked Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, the Turkish ministers for foreign and family affairs, respectively, not to appear at a pro-Erdoğan rally in Rotterdam this weekend. (A city that was almost razed to the ground by the Nazis in 1940.)
When Çavuşoğlu threatened sanctions if the Dutch would not allow him to come, the government of Mark Rutte denied his plane landing rights.
Kaya then attempted to reach Rotterdam by car from Germany. She was declared a persona non grata and escorted out of the country.
The diplomatic row comes just three days before parliamentary elections are due to be held in the Netherlands.
Far-right politician Geert Wilders seized on the incident to argue there was a “fifth column” in the Netherlands. He called on those with loyalties to other states to leave.
But there was cross-party support for Rutte’s actions. Other political leaders praised him for not giving in to Turkish threats.
Relations between Turkey and its NATO allies have been on edge. Erdoğan sees the West’s hand in a 2016 coup attempt against him. European countries and the United States worry that the post-coup crackdown and Erdoğan’s attempts to make the presidency more powerful are the first steps in establishing a dictatorship.
Erdoğan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party has been trumping up support for the constitutional changes in the Turkish diaspora. Up to half a million ethnic Turks reside in the Netherlands. Three million live in Germany, half of whom are dual citizens and eligible to vote in a referendum in April.
Relations between Turkey and the Netherlands have been particularly testy.
In 2014, Erdoğan’s Foreign Ministry accused the Dutch of “racist accusations toward Turks” after the Netherlands intensified monitoring of Turkish interest groups in the country.
Officials said such organizations — often funded by the Turkish government or the Justice and Development Party — did more to strengthen “Turkish-Islamic identity” than integrate ethnic Turks in Dutch society.
Polls have shown that Dutch citizens of Turkish descent are less likely to share the country’s liberal gender and sexual values than do the native Dutch.
In 2013, Erdoğan personally criticized the adoption of a Turkish boy by a lesbian couple in the Netherlands.
Erdoğan argued that Turkish children should not be “assimilated” into Dutch society by being raised by Christian or gay parents but “returned” to the Turkish community.
Political parties in the Netherlands, including Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberals, argued at the time that such statements made clear Turkey wasn’t ready to join the European Union.