Erdoğan Huffs and Puffs, But Balks at Sanctions Against Dutch

The Turkish leader makes a lot of noise, but has not followed up on his threat of economic sanctions.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has continued to agitate against the Dutch government after it prevented two of his ministers from speaking at rallies in the country.

In a television interview, he called on Dutch voters of Turkish descent not to support either the ruling liberal party of Mark Rutte nor the nationalist Freedom Party of Geert Wilders in parliamentary elections on Wednesday. Both, he said, “see Turkey as the enemy.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Erdoğan blamed the Dutch for the massacre in Srebrenica.

In 1995, Dutch peacekeepers were unable to stop Serbian militias from killing more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks in the town.

Earlier this week, Erdoğan called the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and “fascists”, accusations that did no go over well in a country that was occupied by Nazi Germany for five years.

Some 400,000 Dutch citizens claim Turkish roots. More than half are eligible to vote next month in a referendum about constitutional changes that would strengthen Erdoğan’s presidency.


The mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, revealed on Monday that he had given police permission to use firearms if it came to a standoff with Turkish security personnel.

After the Dutch had denied Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, permission to fly into Rotterdam on Saturday, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, the family affairs minister, was able to reach the city traveling by car from Germany.

Aboutaleb said city officials were deceived by the Turkish consulate, which maintained that Kaya had no plans to make an appearance. When she did, the consulate cut all communications with the Dutch, leaving the mayor unsure if Kaya’s guards were armed.

A tense situation, made worse by the presence of hundreds of Turkish protesters, was eventually resolved peacefully. Kaya was escorted back to Germany by Dutch police.


The reason the Dutch had barred Çavuşoğlu from addressing a pro-Erdoğan rally in the first place was that Turkey had threatened economic sanctions if they did. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he refused to be blackmailed.

Erdoğan has made a lot of noise since and said he will bring charges against the Netherlands in the European Court of Human Rights. But the threat of economic sanctions appears to have been empty.

Owing to a 1964 association agreement, neither Turkey nor countries in the European Union are allowed to bar each others’ commerce.

Dutch exports to Turkey were worth €5.4 billion last year, or 1 percent of total Dutch exports. The Netherlands’ central bank estimates that Dutch companies have interests worth €17 billion in Turkey.

Turkish exports to the Netherlands amounted to €2.8 billion and consisted mostly of textiles, vegetables and fruit.