February 2 2011
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has refused to comment on remarks by anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders calling Turkey a totalitarian state and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a ‘freak’. During a press conference in Ankara, the Minister refused to give the remarks the credit of a reaction, instead emphasizing the good relations between Turkey and the Netherlands.
A planned trip to Turkey by a delegation from the Dutch parliament has been cancelled. The trip was scheduled for January, and intended as a “fact finding mission” in connection with Turkey’s hopes to join the EU.
Last week a representative from the foreign affairs ministry stated that Geert Wilders, leader of the right wing Freedom Party (PVV) would not be welcome in the country. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, was free to refuse to receive the Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders, though the statement did not represent an official position from the Turkish government.
In response to the comment, Dutch MPs voted yesterday to cancel the January trip even though politicians, academics and other interest groups had agreed to meet delegates. “The delegation takes the view it is for parliament to decide who should be in the delegation,” the parliamentary European affairs commission said in a statement.
DutchNews.nl reports that Turkish MPs are disappointed by the cancelled trip. “If a Dutch colleague has preconceptions about our country, the best thing to do is welcome him and change his mind,” Yasar Yakis, chairman of the Turkish parliament’s EU harmonisation committee told the NRC.
A planned visit to Turkey by Dutch members of parliament remains unconfirmed, after the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced the delegation would not be welcome if it included Geert Wilders. Foreign ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin told AFP that the far-right politician, leader of the Freedom Party and a vocal critic of Islam, is “unwelcome” in Turkey due to his racist views. In response, the parliamentary European Affairs Commission said it would cancel the visit if not all members of the delegation are received by the Turkish authorities.
Wilders has asked Foreign Minister Verhagen to lodge a complaint over the refusal. Verhagen is only willing to point out to Ankara the need for conversations with Dutch MPs and the attending advantages and says his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, is free to refuse to receive the Dutch populist politician.
De Volkskrant reports that the Turkish government is now embarrassed by the situation as refusing to meet Wilders would allow the controversial politician to accuse Turkey of being undemocratic and unable to take criticism.
NRC Handelsblad reports that while Turkish daily Aksam broke the news of the ministry’s worries about Wilders’ forthcoming visit, the controversy got little attention in other Turkish media. The paper also notes that some secular and religious opinion makers in Turkey who are familiar with Wilders say they would welcome a conversation with the polemic politician, for reasons of their own.