By ESTHER KING
Dutch authorities on Saturday barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from landing in Rotterdam, after a political rally at which he was slated to appear was cancelled.
The decision is sure to further aggravate tensions between the EU and the government in Ankara. Austria, Germany and the Netherlands have voiced displeasure that the Turkish referendum — over constitutional amendments designed to consolidate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s already formidable powers — was being debated within their borders.
The Dutch government said Saturday it had denied entry to Çavuşoğlu over “risks to public order and security,” the AP reported. On Friday, the owner of the venue booked for the political rally had withdrawn authorization. Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said in a statement he would have done the same.
In response to the decision to cancel the rally in Rotterdam, President Erdoğan called the Dutch “Nazi remnants and fascists.”
The country’s Turkish population “are not your captives,” Çavuşoğlu warned the Netherlands in an interview with CNN Turk earlier on Saturday. “I sent them so they could contribute to your economy.”
Turkey, he added, would respond with economic and political sanctions if he was refused entry.
The threat made it impossible to come to a reasonable solution, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. “This morning on TV [the Turkish minister] made clear he was threatening the Netherlands with sanctions and we can never negotiate with the Turks under such threats. So we decided…in a conference call it was better for him not to come.”
Several German municipalities canceled similar political events last week, barring Turkish officials from rallying support among the country’s Turkish population, some 1.4 million of whom are eligible to vote in the upcoming referendum. The decision drew ire from Erdoğan, who accused the country of “Nazi practices.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that, while the comments were “sad” and “misplaced,” Europe could not afford to alienate Turkey. “As unacceptable as some things are, it can’t be in our foreign and geopolitical interest to distance ourselves from Turkey,” Merkel told the Bundestag Friday.
German and Dutch bans on campaigns for a “yes” vote in the April referendum are a signal that Europe is “taking a side for a ‘no’ vote,” Çavuşoğlu said.