World News

Politicians concerned over Ankara's influence on Turks in Germany

BERLIN (Reuters) - German politicians voiced concern on Sunday about the growing influence of Ankara on people with Turkish roots living in Germany.

Supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hold up their mobile phones and wave Turkish flags ahead of his visit in Lanxess Arena in Cologne in this May 24, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Germany has seen violence in the past between nationalist Turks and militant Kurds and officials fret that tensions in Turkish society following last month’s attempted coup could spill over onto its soil.

Thousands of demonstrators from Germany’s Turkish community turned out in Cologne last Sunday to show their support for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at a rally that ratcheted up diplomatic tensions between Ankara and Berlin.

“People of Turkish origin who live here must abide by our laws and our customs,” Merkel ally Volker Kauder told the Funke Media Group in comments published on Sunday.

“I therefore view with concern attempts by the Turkish government and the ruling AKP party to influence people with Turkish roots living here in Germany,” he added.

Bernd Riexinger, co-leader of the radical Left party also warned about increasing strains among the Turkish population in Germany.

“Erdogan supporters are already exerting a lot of pressure on dissidents in Germany,” he said. “This must stop. There must not be threats among us.”

Germany is home to around three million people of Turkish origin. In Turkey’s last national elections, 60 percent of them voted for Turkey’s ruling AKP Party, according to the organisation of Turkish Communities in Germany.

Gokay Sofuoglu, chairman of Turkish Communities in Germany, told Reuters last month that a hotline number was circulating on social media that supposedly called on people to notify Turkish authorities about Erdogan opponents.

Kauder appealed to Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which represents more than 70 percent of Muslims living in Germany, to make clear to its members that Germany’s constitution and law were above religion.

“In my opinion we should not allow an association like DITIB, which evidently the mouthpiece of President (Tayyip) Erdogan is, to shape Islamic Religious Education in schools,” he added.

Reporting by Caroline Copley and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Stephen Powell