Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Turk and the Tsar

Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan. A dangerous mix, which puts Europe in mortal danger. On April 16th, the Turks will vote in a referendum to afford the Turkish presidents sweeping powers which would turn his presidency into an autocracy. Erdogan is pulling out all the stops to get the diaspora to vote as well, some 5 million strong. His ministers are travelling the length and breadth of Europe - and we saw what happened in Rotterdam last Saturday. It was thoroughly disconcerting to see the mass of flag-waving Turks in the city, turning to rioting when their minister was sent away. And some militants claiming that the city of Rotterdam will soon be theirs.

It has been suggested that Erdogan wishes to reinstate the Caliphate, which ruled Turkey until 1924. He could just as easily wish to reinstate the Ottoman Empire, which (at one point) reached as far as Vienna in the 17th century. What does that remind you of?

Vladimir Putin. He wishes to reinstate the Russian Federation to within the borders of the old USSR, abolished in 1991. He also wishes to extend his sway to the whole of Europe, made easier by US president Donald Trump. He is not too bothered about Europe, and Putin knows that.

If Erdogan gets his new powers, he could just as easily foment trouble in the Turkish communities in Europe, setting off civil unrest if not worse. Erdogan could cancel the migrant deal, that has stopped the flow of migrants from Syria and other places across the Aegean Sea into Greece and the EU. Hundreds of thousands would come across, causing further instability in Europe. And, with Donald Trump not really minding what happens in Europe, Vladimir Putin could march in to restore stability on Russia's borders. In Ukraine. In Poland. In Germany. In Holland. In the United Kingdom, where Brexit will loosen the ties to continental Europe, where Sturgeon's Scotland seeks to secede.

There is one other angle on this. If there is conflict between Europe and Turkey, this also means a schism in the NATO alliance. Should this really come to pass, then Putin will have achieved his aims. We should be very worried - if Erdogan gets the majority of Turks to vote Evet. Yes. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Election Day 2017

I just want to put my perspective on the Dutch elections, which are being held today, 15 March. We have all heard of Geert Wilders, whose cosy Limburg brogue is dressing up a toxic rhetoric against one of the great religions of this world. Mr Wilders appeals to 1 out of every 7 voters in this country. Why? Because he appears to offer a solution to a problem in the Netherlands, that none of the mainstream political parties are addressing. The Turkish president has unwittingly helped to drive some of that support away. While Mr Wilders was tweeting away on the sofa, the government was in the business of dealing with the excesses that Mr Erdogan is perpetrating. The parties of government are showing that they are actually acting on a problem. All Mr Wilders does is talk. His rhetoric has also prompted the government to take a far more confrontational approach to Mr Erdogan than would (initially) have been necessary. The Turkish ministers were way out of line to come campaigning here. If it had not been for Geert, they would have held their little rallies, the various layers of government would have dealt with it. But because of Mr Wilders' presence on the political scene, and his vilification of all immigrants, particularly Muslim ones, the government was fearing a backlash from Wilders if they allowed the Turks to campaign here - so they said no. Not the best decision, I feel, but that's just me tweeting, erm, Facebooking away on the couch. Well, at the kitchen-table ;-)

The problem that has produced all this support for Geert Wilders has NOT gone away. Once Mr Erdogan has held his referendum, once a new government is in post here in Holland - that's when the debate has to start how to deal with the hitherto mismanaged issue of immigration and integration.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Monday 27 February

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Friday 24 February

Last night, the Netherlands were lashed by a severe gale, with gusts up to 75 mph. This caused some damage and disruption, but nothing really serious. The only visible effects in this town was the election billboard which had blown down, and a lot of small twigs and branches that had blown off the trees, littering the roadways.

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Thursday 23 February

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Tuesday 21 February

Back in Holland for a couple of weeks to give my father a hand who needs it at the moment. Journey from Stornoway went smoothly yesterday, 10 hours door to door. This means one ferry crossing (2½ hours), one bus trip from Ullapool to Inverness (1 hour 20 minutes), one bus trip to Inverness Airport (about 20 minutes), one flight to Amsterdam (1 hour 20 minutes), one train journey of approximately the same length. Not bad going at all.

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