Italy to expel 54 Ajax fans ahead of Juventus match

            By Senhan Bolelli</p>  <p>MADRID (AA) - Italy will expel 54 Dutch Ajax fans after they were found to be in possession of weapons a day before the team’s Champions League clash against Juventus, the country’s Interior Ministry said Monday.</p>  <p>Police stopped two buses of Ajax supporters on the outskirts of Turin and confiscated knives, fireworks, pepper spray, flares, a hammer and a baton. They will be expelled after identity checks.</p>  <p>&quot;Thanks to the police. No one can be permitted to come to Italy to cause trouble. Our stadiums and our cities are closed to those who are violent,&quot; Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told reporters.</p>  <p>Dutch police similarly prevented some 120 Juventus fans from entering Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam earlier this month before the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals and some of them were detained after violence erupted between fans of the two teams.</p>  <p>*Writing by Sibel Morrow</p>  <p> 

Dutch TV host slams 'double standard' in Netherlands

By Abdullah Asiran

ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands (AA) – Dutch TV host Peter Rudolf de Vries on Saturday criticized his own country over “double standards.”

Speaking at a TV program, De Vries, 61, said his country tolerates far-right party’s insult on Muslims but it does not tolerate criticism on Israeli massacres.

Previously in a TV program, "Toy", song of Israeli singer Netta Barzilai's — winner of the 63rd Eurovision Song Contest — parody appeared. Barzilai was mocked and Israeli army's massacres in the Gaza Strip was seen on the background of the parody.

The program host and producer Sanne Wallis de Vries received reactions over the parody, with Israeli Embassy in the Hague sending a letter of complaint to the TV channel.

"Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders' wish for [holding] a cartoon contest on Muhammad at Dutch Parliament is regarded normal but everyone blasts this woman [Sanne Wallis de Vries] for doing this. Because there's a double standard.", the TV host said.

Wilders made a new provocation when he announced that he will organize a cartoon contest, whose theme would be the Prophet Muhammad, at the Dutch Parliament.

Turkey’s gift to the world: Tulips

By Kenan Irtak

ISTANBUL (AA) – Taken from the Turkic homeland in Central Asia's Pamir Mountains to Anatolia and spread worldwide, tulips continue to be the main theme for spring events.

Tulips were brought by Turks from Central Asia to Anatolia during the Turkic migration and have been used in decorative patterns since the 12th century. The plant also became a main theme in art, poems, stories, handicrafts and miniature crafts and its pattern was imprinted on mosque decorations, carpets, war helmets, robes, skirts and money.

The symbol of Turkey and Istanbul, the tulip was brought to Europe in the second half of the 15th century. Tulip bulbs sent by the Austro-Hungarian Empire's ambassador in Istanbul, Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq, who was also a botanist, first arrived in Vienna and then in the Netherlands.

Becoming popular in the Netherlands, the tulip made its way to the Canadian capital Ottawa and came to be known worldwide. In Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, tulip festivals are held every year.

Ismail Hakki Gulal, a member of the Istanbul Tulip Foundation’s science committee, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the tulip came from Central Asia to Anatolia during the Turkic migration.

"The tulip's arrival in Anatolia started with our ancestors' migration from Central Asia. At the foundation, we have some research on this topic," he said, adding there are some assumptions such as Turkic women carried it during the Turkic nomads' journey.

Gulal stated that the tulip was taken to the Netherlands for landscaping, and in that period, it was a status symbol as both the Ottoman and Dutch empires were passing through a wealthy era.

He added that another assumption says that tulips were given to the Netherlands as a gift, as this was recorded in Ottoman documents.

"Going to the Netherlands for landscaping, the tulip became a trade good in that country. In Turkey, it's much more cultural. You can see a tulip pattern on Turkish banknotes and on Turkey's advertising logo" for its 2020 Olympics candidacy, Gulal said.

"You can see it anywhere — on fountains, tombstones. It is supposed that the tulip was part of Ottoman monarchy culture, but it's a culture of the people. It has been a culture that we carried from Central Asia."

– Tulips sold for price of a house in Amsterdam

Professor Ekrem Bugra Ekinci, a Turkish academic at Istanbul-based Marmara University, said people started to dote on tulips in the era of Ottoman Emperor Kanuni Sultan Suleyman, commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent in the West.

"Hundreds of kinds of tulips were produced. Tulip gardens became popular. Poems describing tulips were written. An academy for caring for tulips was founded as well," Ekinci said.

"Tulips spread from Anatolia to the Netherlands. Multicolored tulips were much preferred. They were sold for the price of a house in Amsterdam."

He added that between 1634 and 1637, a tulip mania was seen in Europe, and French writer Alexandre Dumas' The Black Tulip novel is based on this term.

– Netherlands earns €1.5 billion per year by selling tulips, bulbs

Yasar Yenigun, a Turkish documentary director who tells of the tulip's historic travel in the documentary 'Tulip: Light of East', said the tulip is in every field of traditional Ottoman art.

He said the tulip pattern has been largely used in mosque decorations.

But Yenigun said the plant also became an important commodity in trade.

"Today, the Netherlands earns €1.5 billion a year by selling the tulip – the current symbol of the country – as a plant and its bulbs to every part of the world."

Local parties win in 2018 Dutch local elections

By Abdullah Asiran

THE HAGUE (AA) – People voted for the municipal councils in the Netherlands for the next four years on Wednesday.

The Christian Democratics (CDA) and local parties won the most votes, while GreenLeft won in Amsterdam and far-right parties Leefbaar Rotterdam and Mos Group won in Rotterdam and the Hague.

Voting began at 7:30 a.m. local time (0630GMT) and continued till 9:00 p.m. (2000GMT). The official results are scheduled to be announced on Friday.

Nearly 12.5 million registered voters cast their ballots in the elections held in 335 municipalities.

Housing, integration and jobs are considered as the three key issues of the election which coincides with the Intelligence and Security Services Act referendum.

Hundreds of Turkish candidates competed in the election as nearly 300,000 Turks were eligible to vote.

The DENK (Think) Party — formed by ethnic Turkish lawmakers Tunahan Kuzu and Selcuk Ozturk in 2015 after their expulsion from the Labor Party — also ran in the elections.

DENK joined with a total of 24 members of parliament in 13 municipalities.

The party had participated for the first time in last year's general election and managed to secure three seats.

Netherlands: Voting begins in local elections

By Abdullah Asiran

THE HAGUE (AA) – People began voting on Wednesday to elect the municipal councils in the Netherlands for the next four years.

Voting began at 7.30 a.m. local time (0630GMT) and will continue till 9 p.m. (2000GMT). The official results are scheduled to be announced on Friday.

Nearly 12.5 million registered voters will cast their ballots in the elections held in 335 municipalities.

Housing, integration and jobs are considered as three key issues of the election which coincides with the Intelligence and Security Services Act referendum.

Hundreds of Turkish candidates are competing in the election as nearly 300,000 Turks are eligible to vote.

The DENK (Think) Party — formed by ethnic Turkish lawmakers Tunahan Kuzu and Selcuk Ozturk in 2015 after their expulsion from the Labor Party — is also running in the elections.

The party had participated for the first time in last year's general election and managed to secure three seats.

4 Venezuelan migrants dead after boat capsizes

By Santiago Serna

BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – Authorities have confirmed the deaths of two male and two female Venezuelan migrants who died when a migrant boat sank while trying to reach the Dutch island of Curacao early Thursday.

In addition, 20 others who were aboard the boat are missing after it sank just miles from Curacao’s coast. All of the migrants were under 30 years old.

The overcrowded vessel sailed from San Jose de la Costa in the western Venezuelan state of Falcon before striking some rocks in the sea and sinking, naval officials said.

The victims’ families are in Falcon state to identify the bodies.

It is the first time a migrant ship has been reported capsized near the land which belongs to the Netherlands.

Venezuelan media quoted locals who paid as much as $100 for the chance to leave the country, which is wrestling with deep economic and social crises.

The tragedy occurred just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the nation’s borders closed with the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

Maduro said he took the measure to fight trafficking groups that have helped cause severe shortages by smuggling Venezuelan products and minerals out of the county.

*Daniela Mendoza contributed in this report.

Dutch investors to stay unaffected: Turkish deputy PM

By Fatih Erkan Dogan and Tuba Sahin

ANKARA (AA) – The government will not adopt a different attitude towards Dutch investors following the recent rise in tensions between the Netherlands and Turkey, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Thursday.

Speaking at Anadolu Agency’s Editors’ Desk in Ankara, Canikli said Turkey needs to act with common sense despite the Dutch government’s clearly disrespectful treatment of Turkish ministers, including Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya.

Dutch authorities have banned Turkish government ministers from addressing their expat community in connection with the upcoming constitutional change referendum on April 16 in Turkey.

“We will stick to all global agreements regarding foreign investments. If we take a heedless decision over Dutch firms, it will harm our people,” he said.

“The conditions provided to them — the Dutch investors — when foreign direct investment was brought in would continue. In this aspect, there won’t be any negative treatment,” he added.

Canikli said the government will concentrate on its own economic interests.

However, the deputy premier criticized the Netherlands for mistreating Turkish ministers, calling it “clearly uncivilized” and highlighted that Turkey needs to address the issue properly.

He said the government could take additional measures against the European country but it depended on Dutch attitude and approach in the future.

“There are some political measures not being shared with the public, but when the time comes they will be implemented,” Canikli said.

Not only Netherlands but also Europe as a whole should be considerate over this issue, he added.

“This, in fact, is a dangerous course but it should not come as a surprise.

“It is considered as a surprising incident, but when we look back, it is possible to assess the situation as Europe wearing a mask for the last 50 years which only slipped off now,” he said.

He said retaliation should be done in equal measure and in accordance with reciprocity in international relations. He described what the Netherlands had done to Turkey as “brigandage” and “trampling of human rights”.

Dutch go to polls amid Turkey row

By Hasan Esen

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AA) –The Dutch people go to the polls Wednesday for tightly contested general elections amid tension with Turkey after its government ministers were blocked from holding rallies there.

Millions of Dutch are going to the ballot boxes in the shadow of rising anti-Islamism, xenophobia, and the spat between Ankara and Amsterdam.

The Dutch polls are being seen as a bellwether for elections later this year in France and Germany, and so a sign of Europe’s future.

The vote comes on the heels of some EU countries barring Turkish ministers from holding rallies for the upcoming April 16 constitutional referendum in Turkey, and a subsequent fierce war of words.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was refused permission to land in the Netherlands and Family and Social Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was forced to leave the country under police escort.

A protest of their mistreatment drew a fierce crackdown from Rotterdam police.

The incidents drew strong criticism from Ankara, including diplomatic notes sent to the Netherlands in protest.

– Coalition expected

Around 250,000 Turks in the Netherlands are eligible to vote in Turkey’s April 16 referendum.

Voting started at 7.00 a.m. local time (0600GMT).

At least 114 candidates from 28 political parties are competing for seats in the 150-seat parliament, including 27 Turkish-origin candidates.

As no outright winner is expected, the election will likely pave the way for a coalition government.

Counting will begin at 21:00 local time (20:00GMT), and the first results are expected late at night. Official results will be announced on March 21.

The process of forming a government is expected to take days, weeks, or even months. After 1977 elections the government was formed in 208 days, and in 2012 it took 54 days.

At least half of the 28 parties competing in the election are not expected to win seats.

According to an I&O poll, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s center-right liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), which got a bounce in the polls from the Turkey spat, is in the lead and is expected to win 27 seats. Greens and Democrats’ centrist D66 follows Rutte’s party, with 20 seats expected, while the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) is expected to win 19 seats.

Geert Wilders’s extreme-right Party for Freedom seems to be leaking support, as it is now expected to win 16 seats, down from the previous prospect of 20. Lodewijk Asscher’s Labor Party (PvdA), which was a government partner with 38 deputies after the 2012 election, is expected to win 12 seats.

This year, Turkish lawmakers Tunahan Kuzu and Selcuk Ozturk, who formed the DENK (Think) Party in 2015 after their expulsion from the Labor Party, will also take part in the elections. DENK is expected to win three seats in parliament, in large part by attracting Muslims and expatriate Turks in the Netherlands.

Turkey bars Dutch ambassador amid tensions

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey has suspended high-level diplomatic ties with the Netherlands and the Dutch ambassador to Ankara will not be allowed to return from leave, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Monday.

The move comes amid tensions after Amsterdam deported a Turkish minister and banned another.

Kurtulmus told reporters about the measures on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting in Ankara.

The Dutch government’s conduct “is unacceptable by any standards”, he said.

“This tension, this crisis, this chaos — whatever you call it — it is not us who caused it,” Kurtulmus said.

“Turkey will not suffer from this. Turkey protects its rights and dignity, but I would like to stress that it is the Netherlands and many other European countries that will bear the brunt,” the minister said.

Kurtulmus said Ankara might review the EU-Turkey refugee deal. Turkey’s EU minister has already called for reconsidering the agreement, especially the parts having to do with refugees trying to enter Europe by land.

On Saturday, the Dutch government cancelled the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s flight permit to the Netherlands.

It then then blocked a convoy carrying Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya and forced her to leave the country under police escort.

When Turkish citizens in Rotterdam peacefully protested these developments, they were met by police using batons, dogs and water cannons, in what some analysts called a disproportionate use of force.

The events have drawn strong criticism from the Turkish government, which, earlier Monday, sent diplomatic notes to the Netherlands in protest.