In blatant defiance of repeated warnings from Europe on the risks of undermining integration and migration policies, the Turkish government is bent on mobilizing Turks and Muslims for its political objectives, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling on all to unite under one nation and one flag.
The provocative and scandalous remarks targeting European Muslim nationals, specifically of Turkish origin, were delivered by Erdoğan during a meeting with his operatives from Europe and other continents. The meeting was organized under the name of the Union of International Democrats (UID), a proxy group of the Erdoğan government abroad, on February 24, 2022, the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
“Know this: We will become a [global] community over which there will be no power. … Remember [our motto of] one nation, one flag, one homeland and one state,” Erdoğan announced, while assuring UID members that they have the full weight of Turkey behind them.
Although the UID was set up to maintain an international presence with the political, diplomatic and financial backing of the Erdoğan government, its main focus is Europe, where some 5 million Turks live, with many of them having acquired citizenship in the countries where they live. President Erdoğan’s speech was also centered around Europe, giving directions to UID members to work harder to achieve the objectives.
“The next pillar of the bridge we built from the past to the future should and will be the places where we live in Europe,“ Erdoğan said, recalling the heritage of the Ottoman Empire, which used to rule many of today’s Central and Eastern European countries.
Parts of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech to leaders of the Union of International Democrats (UID):
“The more you expand this umbrella as the Union of International Democrats, the more you increase your sphere of activity and influence, the more successfully you can fulfill the mission of delivering these messages to our citizens, organizing them and preparing them for the future,” he added.
It is clear that Erdoğan sees Turks living in Europe as his own citizens, rather than nationals and/or residents of the countries where they live, work and retire. He wants the UID to rally Turks across the continent behind his political Islamist vision.
In order to allay concerns for some who might feel uneasy working for the Turkish government while holding another country’s citizenship or maintaining residency in Europe, the Turkish president tried to reassure them, saying: “Don’t forget, you have the 85-million-strong Turkish nation behind you. You have a great legacy of history and civilization behind you.”
He also noted that hundreds of millions of Muslim friends and brothers stand behind the Turks and that they all are committed to the advancement of the cause for Allah and the truth.
“When we properly mobilize this power, no organization, no evil structure, no hidden or open obstacles can stand in our way. Keep in mind, Turkey is no longer the old Turkey,“ Erdoğan said.
In a veiled treat to European leaders, Erdoğan warned that Turkey, backed by Turks and Muslims in Europe, would derail any plans devised by European governments. “Together we will spoil the plots of those who try to divide our people, and together we will bring down their plots on their heads,” he declared.
“We are also taking the necessary steps against rising hostility against Islam and Turks abroad,” Erdoğan continued.
While uniting his supporters in Europe behind his vision, the Turkish president also took aim at Turks who do not support and share his goals. “When we look at the people who entered local and national parliaments in elections in Europe, we see that although their names are Turkish or Muslim, unfortunately, most of them are people who have broken their once closely felt ties with our nation,” he remarked.
Erdoğan’s remarks specifically targeted Turkish and Muslim politicians in many European countries who do not subscribe to the political Islamist ideology and apparently put the interests of the countries they serve above those of Turkey.
The Turkish president’s speech to UID members in April 2021:
Turkish embassies as well as entities aligned with the Erdoğan government have been pursing a campaign of harassment of Turks who are critical of the Turkish government, profiling them and spying on them.
Erdoğan’s speech at the UID meeting is by far the most provocative to date, clearly amounting to Turkey’s overt political interference in European affairs, using Turks and Muslims as trump cards against those nations.
In the past such meddling drew the ire of European leaders, who warned Turkey about undermining their integration and migration policies and described Ankara’s efforts as having a destabilizing impact on Turks and Muslims in Europe.
A European Parliament resolution that approved the critical 2016 Commission Report on Turkey on July 6, 2017, which called for the freezing of accession talks, captured Erdoğan’s clandestine activities in member states.
It underlined that “that the Turkish government must refrain from systematic efforts to mobilize the Turkish diaspora in member states for its own purposes; notes with concern the reports of alleged pressure on members of the Turkish diaspora living in member states; and condemns the Turkish authorities’ surveillance of citizens with dual nationality living abroad.”
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. 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 in December 2019.
With the systematic campaign targeting the mobilization of the diaspora, Erdoğan hopes to achieve multiple goals: bringing votes for his party in national elections; using the diaspora to pressure and bully European capitals; and intimidating his opponents at home by going after critics abroad.
The main government institutions that were tasked with supporting the UID and affiliated groups are the Foreign Ministry, the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) and Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT).