Berlin fears Turkish spies
An electoral rally in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2015. Source: Wikimedia
Berlin says there has been a significant increase in Turkish spying in Germany, where tensions within the large Turkish expat community have increased ahead of April’s referendum on Turkey’s presidency.
Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency said divides within Turkey ahead of the April 16 referendum on boosting the powers of the president were mirrored in Germany.
Tensions between Germany and Turkey reached a new low this month in a row over Turkish political rallies to boost support for a “yes” vote.
“The BfV is observing a significant increase in intelligence efforts by Turkey in Germany,” the agency announced.
BfV president Hans-Georg Maassen highlighted fears of tension between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan-supporting Turks in Germany and supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
“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,” Maassen said.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Berlin this week and said Turkey’s political tensions should not exported to Germany.
Comparisons with Nazi Germany were “lines that should not be crossed”, Gabriel told Cavusoglu, emphasising that he wanted a return to “friendly relations”.
Erdogan has accused Germany of “Nazi practices” because of the cancellation of rallies for visiting Turkish ministers.
Cavusoglu repeated the Nazi comparison in Hamburg while trying to win support from the 1.4 million Turkish voters in Germany.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier condemned the Nazi remark as “unacceptable”.
“The Turkish side said it wanted to be treated equally with respect but I believe both sides have a responsibility and there are lines that must not be crossed and any comparison with Nazi Germany is one of them,” Gabriel said.
The German authorities have withdrawn permission for Turkish rallies in Gaggenau, Cologne and Frechen.
Erdogan said the orders were anti-democratic while Berlin pointed out that decisions were made by municipal councils, largely based on security concerns.
Earlier in the week, Cavusoglu, speaking from the balcony of the Turkish consular residence in Hamburg, accused Berlin of “systematic pressure” on Germany’s Turkish community, claiming it was backing the “no” campaign. He added that the Germans should not give Turkey “democracy and human rights lessons”.
Turkey has also accused Germany of giving a safe haven to PKK rebels, which it calls terrorists.
There are around 3 million people of Turkish descent living in Germany, many as a result of Germany’s “guest worker” (gastarbeiter) programme of the 1960s and 1970s.