Netherlands joins EU in refusal to congratulate Erdogan

Turkey flag
Downloaded on 23 March 2013: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmoi/2678467654/sizes/o/in/photostream/. (pterjan/flickr)

Not a single country in the European Union, including the Netherlands, congratulated Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his on Sunday. The projected results show that 51.4 percent of Turks voted 'yes' on a referendum that gives Erdogan more power, including the possibility of ruling Turkey until 2029. But instead of congratulations, a number of EU countries responded with criticism and admonitions, the Volkskrant reports. 

The official results of the referendum are expected next week.

While a number of EU countries are choosing to hold their tongues on the topic of the Turkish referendum, concerns reign that this referendum will only drive Europe and Turkey further apart. Continued cooperation between the EU and Turkey is of importance due to an asylum agreement, which slowed the flow of asylum seekers from war-torn Syria to EU countries. There are also millions of Turks living in the European Union. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministers all emphasized the small margin with which the referendum won. "The tight result shows that Turkish society is deeply divided and that puts great responsibility on the Turkish leadership and president Erdogan personally", Merkel said. 

Koenders released a similar statement: "The result indicates that the population is divided. In the implementation the Turkish government is advised to keep to the recommendations of the Council of Europe, in the interest of democracy, in the interest of law and to prevent further polarization." The European Commission in Brussels said that Erdogan's narrow victory forces him to do his best to reach a national consensus on constitutional reforms. 

Koenders and Hollande also warned that Erdogan's announced plans to reintroduce the death penalty will "mean the end of the European dream" for Turkey, according to the Volkskrant. 

A legal committee of the Council of Europe ruled in March already that the referendum is a "dangerous step backwards" for Turkish democracy. On Monday observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concluded that the referendum did not meet international standards - Erdogan's 'yes camp' was strongly favored, while the 'no camp' was intimidated. 

The biggest opposition party in Turkey, the CHP, wants to declare the referendum invalid due to a high number of irregularities, according to the newspaper. Voters reported polling station staff standing too close to them while they cast their vote. People in Kurdish areas complained about intimidating police. And the Turkish Supreme Electoral Council decided at a late stage to accept un-stamped ballots. 

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