Far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders arrives to cast ballot in the parliament elections at a polling station in The Hague, the Netherlands, March 15, 2017. (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan)
STRASBOURG, March 15 (Xinhua) -- As Dutch voters head to the polls for a general election on Wednesday, European leaders gathered here at the European Parliament backed the Netherlands in its growing political dispute with Turkey.
European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani and leaders of several political groups all spoke on Wednesday in support of their Dutch colleagues.
The Netherlands has been involved in a dispute with Turkey since Dutch officials decided to bar a plane carrying Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu from landing on Saturday, and so prevent him from attending a planned political rally in Rotterdam.
The rally, aimed at mobilizing Turkish voters living in the Netherlands on a presidential referendum that could give substantial new powers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was deemed by Dutch officials as a risk of disruption just prior to a tense general election.
Later on Saturday, the Netherlands expelled Turkish Family Minister Fatma Kaya who had arrived in Rotterdam by car in order to attend the rally.
The moves triggered drastic reactions from Ankara, including barring Dutch diplomats from entering the country, and diplomatic relations frozen between the two countries. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the Netherlands "will pay" for the insult, and accused the EU member state of terrorism. Erdogan also called Dutch authorities "Nazi remnants and fascists" and blamed the Netherlands for allowing the 1995 massacre of Srebrenica when Dutch UN peacekeepers failed to stop Bosnian Serb forces from killing 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.
Addressing the European Parliament Wednesday as part of a debate on the future of Europe, Juncker rejected Turkish claims.
"I was scandalized by what was said coming from Turkey regarding the Netherlands and Germany," Juncker asserted. "I will never accept the comparison between the Nazis and the current government in the Netherlands," he said.
Tusk also refuted Turkey's comparison between the Netherlands and Nazis, saying "And for sure Rotterdam. The city of Erasmus, brutally destroyed by the Nazis, which today has a Mayor born in Morocco."
Recalling that Dutch polls are open today, Tajani used the occasion to argue, "no one can offend a country going to the elections, offending the values we all recognize."
Throughout Europe, observers are on edge about the Dutch elections, as rising populist and nationalist sentiments have made ground in opinion polls. Many are predicting a strong result for Geert Wilders, founder and leader of the extreme right Party for Freedom, with fears that he could unseat current Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The row with Turkey, just days before the elections, is expected to translate into gains for Wilders, whose party has run an anti-Islamist platform, capitalizing on resentment that has grown since the start of the ongoing refugee crisis in 2015.
by Jesse Wieten
THE HAGUE, March 14 (Xinhua) -- One day before the Dutch elections, the Netherlands seems on its way to complete a difficult formation of a broad government coalition excluding the right wing populist Party for Freedom (PVV), experts told Xinhua.
Wednesday's Dutch parliamentary election sees a total of 28 parties bidding for 150 seats in the lower house. Full story
ANKARA, March 13 (Xinhua) -- Turkey will impose political sanctions against Netherlands for the moment, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said late Monday after the Dutch authorities barred Turkish politicians from holding rallies in Rotterdam for a referendum on constitutional amendments.
The sanctions would be under the political framework at the moment, Kurtulmusv told reporters after a cabinet meeting which measures against the Dutch government were discussed.Full story