What to make of these three?

21 December 2016

What to make of these three?

Foto: SP

Trump, Erdoğan and Putin. These names make the world shudder on an almost daily basis. Many people are asking themselves whether the world is becoming even more unsafe because of them. Harry van Bommel takes a rather different look at the matter.

It was by a large majority that the European Parliament voted on 24th November in favour of suspending negotiations with Turkey. The signal is clear: the measures taken by Turkey’s President Erdoğan in the wake of the failed coup were not appreciated by European politicians. And they were right, says SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel. “More than 100,000 people have been removed from their jobs, and MPs have life sentences hanging over them as a result of their views,” says Van Bommel. “In addition, Erdoğan’s aggressive policy towards the Kurds is also certainly a significant factor.”

The Turkish president reacted by threatening to open the country’s borders, which would open the door to Europe for millions of refugees. Tough meets tough, then. Confrontation instead of reconciliation. Well, that seems to be the fashion. In relation to Russia Europe appears to be adopting a similar confrontational attitude, with the danger that this will provoke an escalation which can’t be stopped. In the United States, Donald Trump, not exactly the model of reconciliation, is hitting home with his open flirting with Putin. Is Europe, both politically and geographically, slowly being surrounded? “To begin with Turkey,” Van Bommel replies, “the threat to open the borders you have to see principally as a negotiating position: ‘If the European Parliament says this, then we’ll shout that.’ With the Turks, negotiations are more or less permanent. For the time being I don’t see a danger of a real break between Europe and Turkey. Turkey is a neighbouring country of Europe. There are considerable trade interests, while movement of persons between the two is also significant. What I mean is, EU member states are continually looking with Turkey at what can be achieved in these areas.”

And what of the apparent courtship between Trump and Putin? “It’s really trying to read the tealeaves if you want to say what the election of Trump is going to mean for international politics. He shouts his head off about everything. Consider for example his irresponsible statements about nuclear weapons or the climate. But the question is whether things will remain so overheated when it comes to it. That goes just as well for issues where the SP agrees with him, such as his announcement that he is going to torpedo the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the TTIP. In short, we’ll all have to wait to see how his presidency turns out.

Whether the world will become safer or less safe as a result of these developments appears to be growing more complicated by the day.


During the recent budget debate in the Dutch Parliament, Harry van Bommel argued that current international policy, including the Netherlands’ contribution, has at any rate not made the world safer or more stable. “The conflict in Iraq and Syria has spread over the entire region and has arrived here via returning fighters. To Europe’s east we see conflict and rising tension, brought about in part by the West’s attitude. The election of Trump makes things even more uncertain,” he says. In other words, you can talk till you’re blue in the face about Trump, Erdoğan and Putin, but the world won’t get any safer if our own international policies don’t change. “Stop the polarisation in relation to Russia, stop the current intervention policy in Syria and take steps in the UN process to arrive at a ceasefire and a lasting peace,” Van Bommel continues. “Exert more pressure on Baghdad to stop the oppression of the Sunni community and thus rid us of ISIS’ feeding grounds, and attach strict conditions to any closer cooperation with Israel, so the country isn’t rewarded for extending the illegal settlements and the oppression of Gaza’s population. In my view these must be the first steps which our country should take to make the world more stable and safer.”

Harry van Bommel is a Member of Parliament for the SP and the party’s parliamentary spokesman on international and European affairs. He was talking to Rob Janssen. This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, in the SP monthly Tribune in December 2016.

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