The Netherlands Shows How Western Tensions With Turkey Spill Into Local Politics

The Netherlands Shows How Western Tensions With Turkey Spill Into Local Politics
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his entourage, heads to a working session of NATO heads of state during a summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (Presidency Press Service via AP).

AMSTERDAM—Just as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fulminates against the United States again, blaming Washington for his country’s worsening economic troubles, a small controversy has erupted in the Netherlands over Turkish influence in the country. It came to light earlier this week that Turkey is planning to fund special Dutch schools to teach residents of Turkish origin about their heritage. The idea has sparked alarm among some Dutch politicians and their followers on both the left and the right, who worry about what, exactly, Erdogan’s government intends to teach in these schools, which would operate on weekends across the Netherlands.

The debate is yet another sign of the increasingly contentious relationship between Ankara and its European neighbors and NATO allies, one that is being shaped by multiple forces, from diplomatic and security concerns to social and corporate pressures.

The worries about the weekend schools reveal the depth of mistrust in the Netherlands over anything having to do with Erdogan and his government. A member of parliament for the center-left party D66, Jan Paternotte, complained that Erdogan sees Europeans of Turkish descent as his citizens and is trying to extend control over them, part of what he described as a very troubling pattern. The Socialist Party’s Jasper van Dijk called the school plan “an undesirable attempt to exert influence.” The far-right Geert Wilders tweeted, “No Turkish schools in the Netherlands!” with a cartoon of a Dutch windmill kicking out Erdogan, the EU and terrorists.

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