Turkey has succeeded in penetrating the European Union countries after two decades of rule by the Justice and Development Party headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, due to its dependence on the demographic weight of its extended communities in the continent, the large financial capabilities of this community, as well as on its allies from Islamic groups with a historical and deep presence in the European Union countries. And this is through political and religious networks and pressure groups that the Turkish state has established over the years. What are the manifestations of this breakthrough, its nature and the objectives that Ankara wants to achieve through it, and the European reaction to these policies and its future prospects in light of a growing European “awakening” against political Islam and its supporters.
Since the eighties of the last century, Turkey’s interest in the large Turkish diaspora in Europe has increased, as these communities were the preferred environment for the activity of the Milli Görüş movement, the national vision close to the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which was founded by Necmettin Erbakan since 1969, as a European extension of his Islamic party, the National System. Its existence was further rooted in the aftermath of the military coup in 1971. The Kemalist republic’s interest at that time was focused on neutralizing the Turkish communities in Europe and keeping them away from the current of political Islam. In this context, the Turkish authorities began to sign agreements with European countries according to which branches of the Turkish-Islamic Union would be opened for a directorate Religious affairs in European capitals in order to supervise the mosques that are led by the Turkish majority, and administer and dispose of Islamic associations Until that time, the Turkish state had no goals related to employing this Turkish diaspora in foreign conflicts as much as its goal was to control it, prevent Islamic and Kurdish movements from penetrating it, and benefit from that diaspora economically, given that the “Anatolian solidarity” networks made up of the Turkish rural immigrants since the 1950s The last century, which formed one of the most important sources of hard currency for the Turkish state.
When the Justice and Development Party(AKP) came to power in 2002, it found a strong and extensive organizational structure that includes hundreds of mosques, associations and economic institutions controlled by the Turkish state, ready. And based on the Islamist trends of the new regime, the Justice and Development government began bridging the gap between the two poles of the conflict over the Turkish diaspora, namely the Turkish-Islamic Federation of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, the official representative of the state, and the Melli Movement.
Görüş, which represents the Islamist trend, as the relationship between the two parties shifted from conflict to coordination, so that the government could fully control the religious, advocacy and educational institutions of the Turkish community in Europe, as nothing remained outside the control of the Turkish state except the Alawite and Kurdish organizations, considering most of them are opposition institutions To the system in Ankara.
Through this alliance, the Turkish regime came to control about 300 mosques in France through the Islamic Union of the Religious Affairs Directorate, and 300 Islamic societies through Milli Göruş, which includes in its ranks 100,000 active members in the entire European continent, and half of them are distributed in Germany alone, according to estimates. Published by the German authorities, as this organization is headquartered in Cologne. In Belgium, the movement controls 300 Islamic societies and 147 mosques. It has about 15,000 imams, teachers and employees, while the Turkish-Islamic Union runs about 700 mosques in Belgium, and it has about 9,000 imams and teachers in Germany (1). These figures do not include the Sufi traditions and cultural associations that Ankara has generously supported.
The Turkish Islamic currents in Europe, in alliance with the Turkish state institutions, have developed an active social Islam that contributes to focusing on strengthening societal ties to control the largest possible part of the diaspora, by working on three axes: the establishment of mosques, education while reaffirming traditional values tinged with Ottomanism, Social and educational support. And through a network of mosque imams that Ankara sends annually to European capitals, it has succeeded in getting its hands on large sectors of the Turkish community, especially the youth. The religious control of the European Turks by the Turkish state affects.
On the entire process of socialization of Turks in the host countries. It would be naive to think that the imams whom Ankara sent to preach are only there for religious reasons; Their job has implications for community behavior, for establishing loyalty to the Turkish leadership and serving its interests.
The Turkish regime also has political and research networks in the countries of the European Union, especially in the influential capitals such as Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Vienna. What I found
Accordingly, the Turkish regime has reproduced Turkish groups working on the European scene to recruit them within its networks, perhaps the most important of which is the nationalist “Gray Wolves” movement, a semi-armed organization established in the 1960s to defend Turkish nationalism. The movement continued to develop into a criminal organization officially known as the “Ideal Youth”, which Turkish governments used to fight communism and Kurdish and Armenian separatism movements. True to its original ideology, with the aim of fighting Turkey’s opponents. Gray wolves play a major role today as a lever of Turkey’s expansionist power
In the aftermath of the military coup that occurred in Turkey in September 1980, the movement lost its momentum and capacity for political action; The new Turkish authorities began to try to reproduce the extreme nationalist movement and exploit its European presence, and intellectual transformations took place within the movement from a pure Turanic ideology towards combining nationalism and Islamism.
The Turkish authorities also participated in supporting the establishment of political pressure groups (lobby) in the capitals of the European Union, which is the largest Turkish pressure network abroad affiliated with the Justice and Development Party, most notably the German city of Cologne, and has branches in France, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands, where it works to lobby for political goals To Erdogan’s government towards these European countries, And at the same time to convince the Turks living in Europe to support these goals. The group expanded its operations significantly in Germany, opening new branches in Berlin, Munich and Stuttgart, and in the French East regions. It awarded nearly 10 million euros in 2012 and 2013 alone.
In addition to the Union of European Turkish Democrats, there is another Turkish organization operating in the European sphere, as a lobbying institution, the Justice, Equality and Peace Council, which is close to the Justice and Development Party. This institution is spread in more than 15 European countries, along with Turkey and the Balkans, and operates in particular within the activities of international and quasi-governmental organizations such as the European Council, the European Parliament, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and UNESCO, and is led by the French of Turkish origin, Ali Djedikoglu,
Former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who is considered a supporter of Erdogan’s policies and a strong defender of him, even in the face of the policies of the countries in which the council works.
The aim of this Turkish penetration comes in the context of striking the European Union through a group of networks of diverse affiliations and environments, with one stone. As these networks play a central role in controlling Turkish communities and turning them into social bases for the political system in Ankara, and using them to mobilize support for President Erdogan’s regime.
And his party is within the Turkish diaspora, during the electoral stations, until European capitals turned into a large electoral tank that contributes to the escalation of deputies within the ruling majority. The traditional economic networks of the Anatolian bourgeoisie in Germany and France represent an important source of funding for the ruling party in Turkey, and one of the sources of foreign investment for the Turkish state, as the companies established by Turks or people of Turkish origin in Germany alone exceeded 100,000 until 2010, while it reached The number of Turkish banks in Europe is about 18 banks that run 106 branches (78% of which are in Germany alone), and they operate mainly in capital transfers to Turkey and in the establishment of businesses.
It was remarkable that the positions and roles taken by the Turkish networks during the recent crisis that broke out between Turkey and the European Union countries in various files ranging from the conflict in Armenia, the file of gas exploration in Cypriot waters, the war in Libya, and the diplomatic crisis with France in the wake of the terrorist attacks in October. 2020. These organizations have benefited from the broad margins of political and media freedoms in the European Union. An example of this is the wide campaign that he carried out The “Justice, Equality and Peace Council” against a number of French newspapers after they published press files and articles about Erdogan’s policies, and about the networks with which he penetrated France for years. The Institute described these newspapers as “a blatant example of irresponsible and aggressive journalism.” The twenty-first century.
However, European governments woke up relatively late to this breakthrough by Erdogan within large sectors of their citizens of Turkish origin, as the electoral campaign for the Turkish constitutional referendum in 2017 was a European shock. Everyone noticed how Erdogan benefited from a huge electoral reservoir, which was one of the reasons for his success in transforming the political system from parliamentary to presidential. In light of these Turkish networks, European anti-penetration policies were diversified as a response, and these counter policies came as follows:
- Security policies: European intelligence services began placing many organizations of questionable behavior under surveillance, most notably the Milli Görüs movement, which was placed under the supervision of the Constitution Protection Authority (German internal intelligence) and underwent inspections targeting its mosques and economic and cultural institutions. In France, the government decided to dissolve the Gray Wolves Movement on charges of hate and violence, while Germany is moving to take the same step.
- New legislations: contribute to the legal dismantling of Turkish networks, given that these networks benefit from loopholes and margins in the prevailing laws. In France, the government introduced the “Islamic Separatism Law,” which includes limiting foreign funding for religious activity and imposing restrictions on importing imams from abroad, especially Turkey, and training imams inside Europe according to curricula that take into account the conditions of Muslims in European countries, where there are currently some 151 imams on scholarships from the Turkish state in France, and 65 percent of imams in the country receive salaries from Turkey. In Austria, the authorities are discussing putting in place a law criminalizing “membership in Islamic political organizations,” which threatens the influence of a wide range of Turkish networks with an Islamist orientation.
- Cultural policies: aiming at integrating Turkish communities into the social fabric of the countries in which they reside, breaking the influence of Turkish “parental care” by preventing the recruitment of teachers from Turkey, and integrating the youth segments of Turkish origins into their European society.
Finally, it must be noted the absence of a unified European policy against Turkish infiltration, for reasons related to the interests of each country, as is the case with the reality of illegal immigration and the European Union’s dealings with it.
In conclusion, the historical shift that Turkey experienced from self-defeated Kemalist patriotism to a new Ottomanism with expansionist tendencies marked the starting point for establishing religious and political networks and pressure groups loyal to the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) regime to penetrate the European Union with the aim of mobilizing support for the Erdogan regime among the ranks. The Turkish diaspora in the European continent, and this was evident in the various electoral stations. It also plays an important economic role in supporting the Turkish state, as well as playing a security role in pursuing and tracking opponents of the regime, and in controlling the Turkish diaspora.
On the other hand, European governments were not aware of the development of these networks early on and the seriousness of their roles, despite the research interest in them. It is noticed the absence of a unified European policy against the Turkish penetration, for reasons related to the interests of each country, as we find intransigence on the part of France, Greece and Austria against Turkish interventions and a determination to go far in dismantling Erdogan’s networks, and in return there is flexibility in Germany, although it is one of the countries that contain most of these networks.
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