President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Republic of Turkey, major part of the country in Asia while Istanbul in Europe, has been confronting crisis after crisis because of his intended desire to remain President until his death. President Erdogan’s desire to join European Union is nipped in the bud because of his country’s worsening record on human rights. In fact, Turkey has aspired to be part of the European bloc since 1960 while applying for membership in 1987.
More so, most European countries from Germany, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands have refused to allow staging demonstrations by Turkish origin Europeans in favour of referendum in April for introducing Presidential rule of Turkey constitutionally. Turks will vote on whether to amend the constitution to grant power to President Erdogan who has been in fact in power since 2003, the first as Prime Minister and following changing laws to give more power to President. The Yes vote would take place in April this year.
President Erdogan has stepped up his purge of political opponents firing additional 15,000 civil servants from their jobs including diplomats and shutting down 375 organisations including nine more news outlets. This dismissal is in addition to 125,000 people including Judges fired or suspended from their jobs since July last year following failed coup d’etat. President Erdogan passed the buck on to US based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdogan regime accused of masterminding July’s failed coup. Fethullah Gulen has been living a reclusive life in Poconos in Pennsylvania of the United States since 1999. President Erdogan demanded repatriation of Gulen to Turkey during ruling of President Obama, but US government referred to the decision by court. Since then relations between these two NATO countries remained cool.
Both Turkey and the Netherlands closed down their consulates in each other’s country following refusal by the Netherlands government to land flight carrying Turkish Foreign minister to attend pro-Turkish demonstration. Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul has been barred from Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam and escorted out of the Netherlands. As a result, protest broke out in front of Turkish consulate in Rotterdam on 11 March. Clashes with riot police led to several arrests and many Turkish origin people suffered injuries. There are around 627,000 plus 10,000 Bulgarian Turks in the Netherlands. Turkey asked Dutch Ambassador to Turkey, who is on leave, not to return to Turkey, apart from Turkey has cancelled high level diplomatic contacts with the Netherlands. Turkish President Erdogan called the act of Dutch government as “remnants of Nazi”.
Turks arrived in European countries including Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden as a result of labour export agreement with Turkey which had begun 1961.
Since German Chancellor Merkel sided with Dutch government for their action President of Turkey Erdogan dubbed German Chancellor siding with “terrorists” while Chancellor Merkel called the allegation absurd. Germany was also accused of behaving like Nazi practice by Turkish President Erdogan when Germany did not allow demonstrations in their cities for referendum in Turkey. Turkey also warned that migrant deal with EU was over.
Apart from anti-Turk sentiment in Central Europe, the Supreme Court of Greece, birthplace of Democracy, refused to send back eight Turkish soldiers, who flew after failed coup d’etat in Turkey, to take asylum in Greece.
The Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s success in 2013 to stop Kurdish Separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan to lay down their arms and to accept autonomy within Turkey abandoning establishing independent Kurdistan, but President Erdogan did not honour his commitment to grant autonomy to Turky’s south-eastern region through constitutional reform. Therefore, conflicts remain between PKK (The Kurdistan Workers Party) and Turkish government.
Meanwhile, French authority allowed Turkish Minister to enter and speak to Turkish origin expatriates. French authority also urged Turkey and European countries to tone down acrimony and resolve the crisis peacefully.
Economic growth has slowed down while per capita income has stagnated around $9,000 every year in Turkey. Unemployment is rising in Turkey. Flow of foreign tourists to Turkey has slowed as a result of terrorist attacks in Istanbul in particular. External environment in its neighbourhood has negatively impacted export, investment and growth in Turkey, apart from entertaining around 3 million Syrian refugees on its territory.
Following the failed coup atrocities levelled against members of the opposition including Judges in Turkey by Erdogan administration has exceeded the limit and turned out to be undemocratic in nature. European Union is overtly critical of the Turkish government’s record on democratic rights and freedom especially after the random purge that followed failed coup d’etat of 15 July last year.
Apart from bad economic scenario in Turkey if European countries turned down labour export agreements with Turkey, millions of Turkish would have to leave Europe and land in Turkey. Turkish administration of President Erdogan should think about negative scenario before behaving undemocratically and irrationally. Damage has already been done by pursuing illegal campaign for “yes” vote in foreign countries on constitutional amendment of Turkey.
Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat from Bangladesh, writes from Virginia USA