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11th Dec 2023

Germany says Turkish politics pose security risk

  • Erdogan at the Istanbul meeting where he compared today's Germany with the Nazi period. (Photo: Reuters)

Germany’s intelligence chief has entered the dispute over Turkish rallies in Germany by accusing it of “increasing” espionage activity in the country.

"The BfV [Germany’s domestic intelligence agency] is observing a significant increase in intelligence efforts by Turkey in Germany," it said in a statement on its website on Wednesday (8 March).

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The BfV chief, Hans-Georg Maassen, also said there was a risk of that violent conflict in Turkey could spill over into Germany which is home to more than 3 million people of Turkish origin.

“The breakdown lines between the various camps in Turkey are mirrored in Germany”, he said.

“There is the danger that these proxy fights between PKK supporters and nationalist, right-wing extremist Turks will escalate because there is a high, hard-hitting potential for danger in both groups,” he added, referring to supporters of a Kurdish separatist group.

The German security warning comes amid a diplomatic dispute over Turkish political rallies in Europe, where Turkish ministers have whipped up nationalist sentiment in support for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to rewrite the country's constitution.

German, Austrian, and Dutch authorities have cancelled a handful of Turkish events on various grounds, while Austria and Slovakia have called for an EU-wide ban on such meetings.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu did go to a campaign event in Hamburg on Tuesday.

He also met with German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel on Wednesday to discuss a possible venue for a future rally in Germany to be attended by Erdogan himself.

Gabriel asked him to refrain from making comparisons with Nazi Germany after Erdogan earlier this week compared the cancellations of some events by German municipalities with the World War II-era fascist regime.

Cavusoglu said “Germany must decide if Turkey is a friend or not”.

He also kept up the anti-German tirade after the meeting, telling press at a business fair later the same day that: “In Germany we see many politicians and the press ... are very harsh and very anti-Turkey and we even see Islamophobic sentiment”.

Turkey’s minister for EU affairs Omer Celik also on Wednesday compared Germany’s actions to the communist regime in Cold War-era East Germany.

“The German authorities are building a Berlin wall in relations with Turkey,” he said.

“Sometimes they [press] ask me if Turkey wants to be part of Europe. I tell them the word 'Europe' is important if you ask that question. Which Europe? If you mean Sarkozy’s, Le Pen’s, Wilders’ Europe, Turkey would never like to be within such Europe,” he added, referring to right-wing and far-right politicians in France and the Netherlands.

The dispute over the Turkish campaign rallies has also become an issue in the Dutch election.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-immigrant and anti-EU PVV party, organised a protest outside the Turkish embassy in The Hague on Wednesday.

“The Turks have chosen to hold a referendum to give more power to the dictator Erdogan,” he said.

“I’d rather that they respect our Dutch soil and that they realise they have nothing to do here,” he added, amid PVV supporters who held banners saying “Stay away! This is our country” in Dutch and Turkish.

A Cavusoglu rally planned for Saturday in the Dutch city Rotterdam was cancelled because the owner of the venue withdrew, but the city's mayor said he would have probably banned the meeting anyway.

Erdogan’s new constitution is designed to centralise power in his presidential palace, giving him the authority to hire and fire ministers and judges and posing questions over Turkey’s eligibility for future EU membership.

EU states have also voiced alarm over Erdogan’s mass purge of alleged sympathisers with the failed coup last July.

Speaking to a UN panel in New York the UN’s human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said: “I am concerned measures taken under the state of emergency appear to target criticism, not terrorism.”

He also accused the Turkish military of “hundreds of deaths, suggesting disproportionate security measures” against Kurdish separatists in south-east Turkey.

The constitutional referendum on 16 April would be a “crucial” test of the country’s democratic credentials, he added.

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