Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted on Friday as comparing Turkey with the former communist East German state and saying Berlin might have to tell Germans travelling there that they did so at their own peril.
Germany’s domestic security chief cited concerns about increased activities of Turkey’s secret service and the growth of militant groups among the three million people with Turkish roots living on German soil.
Minister Schaeuble compared Turkey to the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), East Germany: “Turkey now makes arbitrary arrests and no longer sticks to minimum consular standards. That reminds me of how it was in the GDR.” He said those who travelled to the former Communist East before it collapsed in 1990 were aware that “if something happens to you, no one can help you”.
German officials have complained they have not had full consular access to a German human rights activist arrested with five others and accused of “terrorism” – an allegation Berlin has dismissed as absurd. Another German citizen was arrested on charges of links to terrorism earlier this year. The arrests were part of a broader crackdown across Turkish society since a failed coup last July. “If Turkey does not stop playing this little game, we need to tell people: ‘You travel to Turkey at your own risk – we can’t guarantee you anything anymore,'” Schaeuble told the mass-circulation Bild newspaper.
TURKISH SECRET SERVICES
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Germans on Thursday to exercise caution if travelling to Turkey and raised doubts about future guarantees for German corporate investment, both moves fraught with economic dangers for Turkey.
Last year, the number of foreign visitors to EU candidate Turkey fell 30 percent amid a spate of bombings by Kurdish and Islamist militants. So far this year, bookings from Germany have accounted for some 10 percent of Turkey’s tourists. Peter Altmaier, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, told German broadcaster ZDF that Turkey was still getting pre-accession aid from the EU but no accession negotiations were currently under way “because on every level it has become worse and more difficult than it was a few years ago”. Germany wants to persuade the EU to shelve this aid, he said.
A survey for German magazine Focus found that the vast majority of Germans (77 percent) were in favour of ending European Union accession negotiations with Turkey. Only 16 percent were in favour of the talks continuing.
Altmaier declined to comment on a report in Bild newspaper that said Berlin was putting arms projects with Ankara on hold.
The head of the Germany’s domestic intelligence agency (BfV) also expressed concerns, citing increased activities of Turkey’s secret service in Germany and the growth of Turkish militant groups here. “We know about the Turkish government’s influence on the Turkish community here in Germany,” BfV president Hans-Georg Maassen told local newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung.
Maassen named as an example charges being made against supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating Turkey’s failed coup last July. He also said there were attempts to “intimidate those with Turkish roots if they are against President (Tayyip) Erdogan”.
Turkish secret services have acted against German law and collected intelligence about people, Maassen said, adding: “For us it’s important that this is made into a subject of discussion and that this is perceived as a problem in Germany.”