Analysts in Turkey argue for political campaigns abroad

Academics speak out after Ankara’s fall out with EU states over block on Turkish ministers’ referendum campaigns

EU rules on political expression have failed to keep up with the free movement of people across the continent, Turkey-based analysts have told Anadolu Agency.

Speaking in the wake of a crisis between Ankara and several EU states over the blocking of Turkish political campaigning for an upcoming constitutional referendum, academics at Turkish universities called on Europe to embrace foreign politics.

“The European Union established rules regulating the free movement of people and goods among countries but did not establish clear rules on the free movement of political thoughts,” Angelo Santagostino, a professor of European integration at Ankara’s Yildirim Beyazit University, said.

“There is no rule here but in principle Turkey should be allowed to make political propaganda in any other country. A political party should be able to address citizens in another European country.”

Earlier this month, several senior Turkish politicians, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were blocked by EU countries such as Germany and the Netherlands from addressing referendum rallies promoting the expansion of the president’s powers.

In recent years, Turkey has granted its citizens living abroad the right to vote in domestic elections and the diaspora is the fourth largest constituency behind Turkey’s largest cities.

In the Netherlands, this campaigning clashed with a Dutch general election and led to the most dramatic showdown between Ankara and an EU government when Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was barred from entering and Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was deported.

Christian Lekon, an assistant professor in international relations at the same university, said there was an urgent need to discuss how politics can be conducted overseas by countries with large diasporas.

“Obviously, Turkish politics is not only carried out in Turkey but also in Germany,” he said. “It is no longer possible to isolate the politics of a country from the influence of other countries.”

Santagostino pointed out that such campaigning among a large migrant group inside another state’s borders was still a fairly recent phenomenon.

“If a politician has a citizen in another country, he or she should be allowed to campaign in that country,” he said.

Referring to the Dutch reaction to the Turkish campaign, Santagostino added: “These events can be regarded as an overreaction resulting from internal political tension.

“This points to the importance of establishing rules on the free movement of political ideas among countries.”