Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday hosted a large delegation from the Union of International Democrats (UID), his ruling party’s organization in Europe, at the presidential palace in Ankara. He asked his party members living in Europe to organize and to create mechanisms that will affect politics in the countries in which they live.
Starting his speech by talking about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he described as a military operation, Erdoğan said Russia is violating international law and that a solution must be found within the framework of the Minsk agreements. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the Minsk agreements were no longer valid. Nevertheless, Erdoğan repeated yesterday that he had asked Putin, whom he talked to on the phone on Wednesday, to seek a solution within the framework of the Minsk agreements.
“[Turkey] has been a European country since the first century of the Ottoman Empire. Until the beginning of the last century, the land on which many European countries are located today was part of our homeland. Today, beyond our historical and social ties, we form an inseparable part of the European continent with our Thrace region,” Erdoğan told the audience that chanted slogans during his speech.
Erdoğan, who described those trying to exclude Turkey from Europe as malevolent, urged his supporters to actively participate and have a say in the political, social and economic activities in their places of residence.
Targeting Turkish, Kurdish and Alevi politicians living in Europe who are against him, Erdoğan said, “When looking at the people who entered the local and national parliaments in the elections in Europe, we see that although their names are of Turkish and Muslim origin, unfortunately, most of them are people who have lost their heartfelt ties to the Turkish nation.”
It is not difficult to understand that Erdogan was referring to Germany’s Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir. Özdemir met with Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of İstanbul and a possible rival to Erdoğan in the coming presidential elections, who was in Germany last week for the Munich Security Conference. Ruling party circles expressed discomfort with the meeting.
Accusing Europe of an inability to prevent the rise of racism, Erdoğan claimed that this racism primarily targets Turks living in Europe.
Erdoğan also indirectly accused French President Emmanuel Macron of being involved in efforts to turn all Muslims away from their religion through initiatives such as European Islam.
Last October the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement criticizing Macron, who announced a draft bill for the creation of “Islam of the Enlightenment,” adding that “Nobody should try to subject our sacred religion, which means ‘peace’, to wrong and distorted approaches under the pretext of ‘enlightenment’. … To think that they can discipline immigrant societies by introducing concepts such as ‘European Islam’ and ‘French Islam’ under the pretext of ‘enlightening’ the religion of Islam means acting in the opposite direction of humanitarian and legal considerations.”
Interestingly, after the UID meeting, Erdoğan spoke on the phone with Macron, discussing Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
UID President Köksal Kuş presented Erdoğan with a photograph of UID headquarters in Cologne.
Stating that opponents of his government, whom he describes as members of terrorist organizations, are more effective in forming public opinion in Europe than his supporters, Erdoğan said, “To be frank, it’s our fault.”
Erdogan wanted UID members to be united in the fight against Islamophobia and urged them to help other non-Turkish Muslims.
Erdoğan also told UID members that if they are united, no state, party or organization in Europe can impose anything on them, adding that they will become a community that can’t be ignored.
Erdogan frequently meets with UID delegations and gives them various instructions.
Erdoğan last October instructed UID members to be more aggressive and active, telling them, “Don’t defend. Attack, explain our cause!” promising that Turkish state institutions would provide them with increased assistance.
He urged his supporters to work hard to secure important posts in the governments of their host countries, pledging them the support of Turkish government agencies during a workshop with representatives of the UID in Geneva on the sidelines of the Global Refugee Forum held December 16-18, 2019.
The UID is often described as the long arm of President Erdoğan in Europe for mobilizing the Turkish and Muslim diasporas for the goals of political Islamists back in Turkey. Turkish government agencies, particularly the Turkish Development and Cooperation Agency (TİKA) and the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), are mobilizing their resources to support the UID. In addition, religious associations funded by Turkey including the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), which is run by the Erdoğan family, have close relations with the UID. In documents that were exposed by journalist Metin Cihan in January 2022, TÜGVA’s operations abroad using state facilities were revealed. The foundation is believed to be involved in intelligence operations abroad.