The state visit of Turkish president Abdullah Gül is promising to be a balancing act. The spectre of Geert Wilders, who lambasted Turkey while Turkey criticised Geert Wilders, will be hovering over the proceedings. At the same time Dutch entrepreneurs stand to miss trade opportunities with Turkey to the tune of 4bn. What the papers say.
In an editorial the Volkskrant claims that the fact that the Turkish president is received with all the honours the government can bestow – a night at the royal palace in Amsterdam, a visit with the queen to the Floriade, which happens to take place in Wilders home town of Venlo – means that Wilders’ influence on Dutch foreign policy is negligible. It will be remembered that Wilders did not think the 400 years’ relationship between Turkey and the Netherlands was a cause for celebration and urged the government to cancel the visit, the paper writes.
But his shadow will linger, says the VK. ‘A comment from prime minister Rutte, a gesture from the queen, all will be taken as an indirect comment on Wilders’.
Once again the Dutch construct of a minority cabinet held in the saddle by a party not represented in the government is causing problems. ‘The possibilities for candid talks with the Turkish president about developments in his country that are cause for concern, such as the persecution of journalists, the Islamisation of education, Turkey’s attitude towards EU member Cyprus, the way Turkey handles its Ottoman past, will perhaps not be fully explored because everybody will be too intent on not mentioning Wilders. If this happens the visit that Wilders didn’t want would become a farce’, the Volkskrant concludes.
NRC focuses on an entirely different aspect of the visit. Turkey has the Netherlands by the proverbials: the paper quotes an ING report which says Dutch entrepreneurs are losing out on trade opportunities with the country. The report estimates the Dutch could be earning €4bn more than they are doing the next four years. ‘They mistakenly think Turkey is a difficult country to trade with. But according to the ING things have changed for the better during the last ten years’, the paper writes.
And what’s more: ‘Economists do not have the exact date but it will definitely happen: Turkey’s economy will supersede the Dutch economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) thinks it will be some time next year.’
While the Netherlands is becoming inward looking, the Turks are opening the shutters to the world, attracting investment and starting one huge project after another. The Turkish economy grew by more than 8% last year, NRC writes.
And the controversial issue of Turkey’s inclusion in the European Union is no longer a matter of ‘should we include another poor country’. The tables have been turned. Turkish industry is now a threat to European employment’, NRC concludes.
Elsevier columnist Syp Wynia, in a video interview, thinks Turkey should not be allowed to enter. ‘The Turkish values do not coincide with European values’, he says. ‘The United States would like to have Turkey in the EU but if you were to ask an American if he would want to include an Islamic Mexico in the US, he would not care to answer’. Wynia thinks Turkish entry is ‘not necessary’ because it already has a customs union with Europe. Instead, Turkey and countries like Ukraine could become members of an alternative European Union, Wynia proposes: ‘a core group and a fringe group.’