Many politicians are hedging their bets by insisting that a positive reccommdation by the European Commission does not automatically mean Turkey will actually be allowed to join. But procrastination is not everyone’s style: “Turkey in the EU—never!” says Dutch MP Geert Wilders, the new right-wing messiah of Dutch politics. Abi Daruvalla reports.
“Turkey is an Islamic country and as such doesn’t belong in the EU. I’d sooner let Australia or Canada join,” says Wilders who was thrown out of the Liberal VVD party (part of the coalition government) last month because of his vociferous refusal to toe the party line on Turkey’s admission to EU.
Undaunted and unrepentant, Wilders immediately formed the one-man faction ‘Groep Wilders’, but a poll on 14 September indicated he would win 12 seats if an election was held now. According to a recent NIPO poll, 41% of the Dutch population are against Turkey’s membership and 21% for (with another 30% are neutral).
Wilders has also received his fair share of negative reactions. The latest is an unconvincing death threat in the form of a poster on an internet site. The text reads “no vote for this racist.” and “six bullets will kill him”. It was supposedly put on an internet site by the unlikely sounding “International Stalinists”.
The Dutch government, currently EU president, has been extremely low profile on the issue of Turkey’s admission to the EU. A spokesman said the Netherlands will support negotiations if Turkey has met the so-called Copenhagen Criteria (a set of conditions on issues such as an improvement in human rights, legal and economic reforms).
Wilders’ main objection to Turkey’s EU membership is a fear that such a move will increase the number of Turkish immigrants into Europe, and especially to the Netherlands where Turks make up the country’s biggest immigrant group (352,000 in a total population of 16 million).
Wilders: “The flow [of Turks] is already too big. Some 30,000 non-Western people come into the Netherlands every year on the basis of marriage and family unification alone! I want to forbid this for the coming five years.
“There is a big problem with the integration of immigrants already in Holland. They top the list in terms of criminality, unemployment, welfare payments, domestic violence… these are just objective facts.” And the situation will not, said Wilders, be helped if Turkey is allowed to join the EU. “Let us concentrate on solving the problems with the immigrants already here properly.”
His second objection is that Turkey’s membership would cost the Dutch tax-payer” even more money. Netherlands is already one of the EU’s highest contributors and according to Fischer Turkey’s membership would cost 11 billion euros in agricultural subsidies alone!”
Wilders’ third objection is that allowing Turkey to join would set a precedent for other non-Western countries to become members: “Before we know, we will have an Islamic EU. I don’t want that.”
He is also concerned that Turkey will be the EU’s biggest member in terms of national population in 10-20 years time and as such (under the new EU constitution) it will have a major voice in forming new legislation. “I don’t want Turkey to influence legislation in Europe, let alone in the Netherlands”.
Wilders dismisses the idea that Turkey could create a bridge between two cultures, saying that it has no influence and “bad relations” with its Islamic neighbours.
Wilders is unashamedly anti-Islam. Murdered populist Like Pim Fortuyn—a man he is often compared with—he describes Muslims as backward in terms of their political culture. Muslims, he says, must adhere to Western norms and values because these come from a “higher, better, nicer and more human civilization.”
Although most Dutch politicians have adopted a low-key stance on Turkish membership to the EU, they are not against Turkish membership in principle. There is some discomfort in Wilders’ own former VVD party but this has been subdued by the party calling a referendum in 2016 before a final decision is made on allowing Turkey to join the EU.
But Wilders is not, of course, alone in his opposition. Other, far more powerful political figures have spoken out against Turkish membership of the EU including French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Jacques Delors and Helmut Schmidt.
The European Commission is tipped to support opening negotiations in a report on Wednesday and EU ministers are expected to make the final decision on whether to start negotiations on Turkish membership at their summit in Brussels on 17 December.