Europe's reluctance to help Turkey locate coup plotters

KLAUS JURGENS
Published

There is an unspoken assumption that close allies and long-standing partners will respect and honor mutually beneficial relationships and that these bonds based on friendship and trust should be able to overcome obstacles and threats when they arise. When talking about the latter, a heinous coup attempt aimed at toppling a democratically elected government would for sure count as one such scenario – or would it?It is clear when analyzing the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Turkey's partners in Europe did not understand the magnitude of what had occurred or the seriousness of the plot. Europe's lack of concern over even the biggest events in Turkey – whether it is ringing in a new era of economic reforms, civil advancement or as in this case, a coup attempt that caused the loss of 249 innocent lives and thousands of injuries – could be perceived as a blatant lack of interest on Europe's part toward its ally Turkey. As long as it concerns Turkey, it must be "wrong" somehow; in other words, what did the Turks do this time? It must be a homemade problem, right?

Then again, sometimes friends need time to sort things out. Granted 24 months is a rather long period of time to sort out issues between allies, but nevertheless it's better now than never. At least the first signs of better understanding what actually took place in Turkey two years ago in the middle of July 2016 are starting to immerge.

With mainstream media not necessarily open to embracing modern Turkey's achievements – that was an understatement by the way – and few television programs broadcasting fair and objective portraits of today's enterprising and fascinating country, it is no wonder then that the European public has – to put it mildly – little if any clue about what is going on in the country. To be fair, this lack of interest does not stem from an unwillingness to learn but instead from the lack of trustworthy sources in their own language. So how could they understand?

When we then see political elite who – for reasons unbeknownst to me since I grew up in the middle of Europe myself but apparently did not turn into a biased, basically anti-Turk individual – join in sidelining or openly disrespecting Turkey, the one important factor in all of this is that we cannot put the blame on European citizens. It is most definitely not their fault.

Still, my contributions are geared toward building bridges, or shall I say reconstructing them. Hence, let us focus on the new developments as there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel for Europeans who want to understand modern Turkey.

So where do coup plotters at large hide?

First, no one has a crystal ball; yet, it seems some foreign shores offer more advantages for key fugitives than others. So, we can do our math and compile a list. As I said, this column is about bringing both sides closer together; hence, I will neither name a single person as being a coup plotter nor name a specific country harboring one or more of them. This article is about Europe as a whole and the terrorist coup plotters as an entity as well as a group and not just a small cell of two or three individual people intent on destroying a whole nation and ready to kill everyone who would stand in their way, including the president of the republic.

Second, and now an obvious point, is there was a structure in Turkey long before the actual coup attempt that was masterminding the operation at home; yet, this network had always had, should things go south, escape routes in place that would allow the terrorists, both high ranking and middlemen, to safely flee the scenes of their heinous crimes. This was the dangerous parallel state of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), having infiltrated so many walks of Turkish life like a societal cancer.

Third, a factor that is only now coming to the surface are the pockets of active sympathizers of either Turkish origin or other nationalities residing abroad also ready to destroy modern Turkey at all cost. These individuals did not move to Europe overnight, but instead must have been living there for quite a while. You can't just put envelopes filled with cash into a suitcase, arrive in a new country and start operating a support network in a day. So, by now the existence of this support network must be regarded as a fact, and in more than one European country. A future column may also focus on the North American wing, but today the focus is on Europe.

Who are the sympathizers?

Serious allegations about a potential crime without proof are unprofessional and above all else, against the law. However, what is certain is that there was a coup attempt two years ago planned on home soil and that there must have been supporters already hiding safely abroad.

First and foremost, the existence of sympathizers in European Turkish communities is undebatable because under normal circumstances, few nationals of another country would open their doors when someone knocks and says: "I just helped organize a coup in Turkey. I am a criminal in favor of terrorist activities. Please give me shelter."

This is an absolute minority of course, and I must underline that fact to avoid misrepresentation of my argument. The millions of citizens of Turkish origin living abroad are part and parcel of the social fabric of modern Turkey and are of course as "anti-coup" as anyone else in Turkey. The exception, of course, is the few terrorism supporters who created their parallel universe that resulted in a catastrophic event that was overpowered by the proud and peace-loving Turkish people on the day and thereafter.

As I wrote earlier on, no names, no countries but frank criticism has its place in an opinion piece: How could European intelligence services not know about those individuals supporting terror groups in a friendly country? They communicate, meet, launder money, provide fake passports and so on and so forth. As there is already a second terror group, the PKK, financing itself mostly from foreign soil, a vast amount of intelligence data must already have been gathered.

Connecting FETÖ and the PKK is not necessarily a far-fetched conclusion either.Better late than never, Europe's intelligence services have now realized: The PKK is a terror network and nothing else; and FETÖ and the parallel state is much more than a "Turkish problem," but a serious terror threat to wherever they operate from or hide. It seems like the right moment for Turkey to ask for more support in locating and extraditing known and found fugitives, and the right moment for Europe and its individual governments to support Turkey in this undertaking.

After all, both FETÖ and the PKK are not only threats to Turkey as a modern nation state but to the whole of Europe as a block of peace-promoting nations, too. If a terrorist no longer manages to create anarchy and bloodshed in a particular "preferred destination" they might just as well turn their backs on the very countries that often unknowingly sheltered them. In conclusion, let us hope that Turkish and European intelligence from now on will focus on working closely together to erase terrorism from our shared soil.

*Vienna-based political analyst and journalist

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