Germany says SETA promotes Turkish government propaganda in Europe

Germany has designated Turkey’s pro-government think-tank, the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) as a front organisation that promotes Ankara’s views under the name of science and research in Europe, DW Turkish reported on Friday.

In response to a parliamentary question from the Free Democrat Party (FDP) regarding Turkey's intelligence and lobbying activities, the German federal government said SETA seeks to influence public opinion and shape the political debate in European through its activities and publications.  

The German government said a SETA report published in 2019 served to pressure the Turkish government’s opponents, DW added.

A 2019 SETA report titled: “The Turkey extensions of international media organisations,” included detailed information on journalists at foreign news outlets in Turkey, complete with past employment and social media posts.

The report analysed foreign news outlets' coverage of the July 2016 coup attempt and the Turkish government’s subsequent crackdown, as well as Turkey’s cross-border operations in neighbouring Syria and elsewhere, linking perceived falsehoods to the journalists’ personal histories and alleged biases.

Both Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have sought to expand their activities in Germany after the failed coup, with the Islamist and nationalist groups close to the AKP trying to increase their impact within the public sphere, the German government said, according to DW.

The German government added that such groups are seeeking to enter German politics by nominating candidates in local elections. SETA opened a representative office in Berlin in 2017, and the religious-nationalist movement Milli Görüş (National Vision) was indirectly represented in the German Islam Conference through the Islamic Council Association, DW said.

Berlin also expressed concerns over the activities of the Grey Wolves, a ultranationalist movement linked to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in Turkey, DW said.

In November, the German parliament passed a motion calling for the the Grey Wolves to be banned following a similar move in France. But DW said the German interior ministry had decided not to act on the issue at this stage, pointing to legal obstacles involved in banning associations.

In answering a previous parliamentary question on SETA’s activities and financial resources in 2019, the German government described the the think-tank as a pro-Turkish government organisation financed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law, former Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak’s family.

The FDP parliamentary group’s deputy chairman Stephan Thomae said the German government had reached the end of its patience with Turkey's efforts to establish diplomatic influence in Germany and was gradually abandoning the cautious approach taken in the past, according to DW.

SETA foundation also has a representative office in Washington D.C.

Writing on social media, Sinan Ciddi, associate professor of national security studies at the Marine Corps University in Virginia, said U.S. authorities should follow the German example with SETA’s Washington counterpart.

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