Turkey and Germany to deepen co-operation against PKK

By Ayhan Simsek for SES Türkiye — 10/10/12 – A new agreement between the two countries will introduce closer co-operation to crack down on the PKK’s money laundering and funding activities in Germany. Turkey and Germany are drafting a new agreement that would help cut down on the PKK’s financing activities in Germany, addressing a long-standing concern in Ankara that the separatist group has been able to sustain itself through illegal activities in the country.

We continue working with Germany with the aim of enhancing principles of sharing information in countering the finance of terrorism,” Selçuk Ünal, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, told SES Türkiye, without giving more details on the on-going negotiations.

“In Europe, the PKK is most active in Germany and raises significant amounts of money through illegal activities, including threats, blackmailing and drug trafficking,” Ünal said. “We are attaching special importance to our current co-operation with Germany in the field of countering terrorism. We expect from German authorities to take necessary measures to counter the PKK’s existence and activities in the country.”

Germany has the largest Kurdish community in Europe, about 800,000, the majority of which emigrated from Turkey. The PKK is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the EU and Germany, and it has been banned in Germany since 1993.

According to the latest annual report of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the PKK has about 13,000 members in the country and tens of thousands of sympathisers. The group carries out activities through more than 40 associations, many of them founded as cultural centres.

Benefiting from liberal laws and legal loopholes, the PKK uses Germany as an important base for recruitment, propaganda and fundraising.

Citing Turkish security officials, Zaman daily recently reported that the PKK and its alleged civil arm, the KCK, annually raise around 1 billion euros in Europe through illegal activities and money laundering using cover organisations and front-companies.

However, the amount of funding is likely much lower. The German domestic intelligence report notes that the PKK gathers “double digit” millions of euros, mainly through fundraising campaigns and membership fees, which constitute the organisation’s prime financial source.

Officials told SES Türkiye that the new agreement between Turkey and Germany will target PKK’s financial sources, with particular focus on money laundering and funding terrorist activities.

Turkey and Germany’s specialised financial crimes investigation units continue negotiations on a memorandum of understanding which will introduce closer and more practical co-operation between the two countries in this field.

Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board and Germany’s special Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in the federal criminal police aim to conclude the negotiations and sign the agreement before the end of this year.

Germany’s FIU is specialised in combating the financing of terrorism and money laundering. So far it has co-operation agreements with counterparts in almost 80 countries.

Annually, FIU investigates about 11,000 suspicious financial activities in the country with nearly 1,000 requests coming from foreign partners. About 25 percent of all investigations deal with money laundering.

The board recently signed similar agreements with other European countries including Belgium and the Netherlands, where the PKK is also active.

The recent negotiations with Germany follow the Turkish government’s criticism of Germany for failing to counter PKK activities in the country.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently blamed European countries for obstructing Ankara’s fight against the PKK.

“Germany does not want a solution. France does not want a solution. These countries do not help us. Instead, they let terrorist heads live in their territory,” Erdogan said in a televised interview on September 27th.

Berlin rejects these accusations. German observers say Turkish politicians are trying to direct attention abroad, as they fail to introduce policies that would find a solution to the Kurdish problem domestically.

“The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation in Germany,” the German Foreign Ministry’s press office told SES Türkiye. “We show zero tolerance to terrorists. Germany and Turkey continue to have good and constructive co-operation in the field of fighting terrorism.”

Turkey and Germany signed a key security agreement in 2003, which established a comprehensive framework for co-operation in fighting terrorism and organised crime.

The agreement includes information sharing between the two countries’ interior ministries and related bodies, foresees joint operations, and even assigned contact officers in respective institutions.

One of the weakest points of the agreement has been co-operation in countering money laundering and the finance of terrorism. The new memorandum of understanding expected to be signed between two countries aims to fill this gap.

According to Turkey’s former military attaché to Germany Celallettin Yavuz, Turkish and German security officials have been engaged in close co-operation against the PKK since 1993, when Berlin banned the organisation.

“In line with the agreement between Turkey and Germany, several Turkish intelligence officers were assigned as contact officials within German domestic intelligence bodies,” Yavuz said.

“With this co-operation, the PKK’s illegal activities in several German states and cities, such as drug and human trafficking, as well as extortion were identified, and consequently those responsible have been brought to justice,” he said.

According to Yavuz, the new agreement between Turkey and Germany is important, but combating the PKK’s foreign support should focus on neighbouring countries like Iran, Iraq and Syria.

“The Qandil Mountains and camps in northern Iraq are like a golden opportunity for PKK,” Yavuz added. “Just as are the arms it gets recently from Iran and Syria. While the PKK receives economic support from Europe, it relies on neighbouring countries for shelter, protection, education, logistics and health services,” he said.