German foundations deny Erdoğan's claims they fund PKK

German foundations deny Erdoğan's claims they fund PKK
German foundations deny Erdoğan's claims they fund PKK

Representatives of various German foundations that carry out projects and activities in Turkey have said their funds have never been used to aid companies affiliated with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an accusation put forth by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday.

Erdoğan told a group of Turkish journalists on a plane en route to Turkey from Macedonia that he is disturbed by the fact that some German foundations are aiding the PKK, which he said is one of the reasons for the probe into the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), the political arm of the PKK. However, the prime minister did not mention the name of the foundations he referred to.

The prime minister also criticized Germany for remaining indifferent to such financial transactions for reasons Erdoğan said he is unaware of. He also confirmed that Turkey notifies Germany when such transactions take place. German foundations with officers in Turkey said their activities were transparent and in the open, but noted any organization aiding the terrorist group should pay the price for it.

Friedrich Naumann Foundation Turkey representative Jörg Dehnert told Today’s Zaman in an email that the organization’s activities and financial affairs were transparent, and the Turkish government was knowledgeable about every aspect of its activities. “This is a serious allegation. I’m sure the prime minister has [real evidence to back up] that accusation […] and he knows us very well. I think he would have directly mentioned our name if he thought we were involved,” he said.

However, he said if any German organizations are financing the PKK, they should be found out and punished, as this is a very serious allegation. “If there is [evidence], I hope the specific German foundation that does this will pay the price for that,” he said.

Michael Meier, the representative of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’s Turkey Office, who was also contacted by Today’s Zaman, also said the prime minister’s statements weren’t directed at his organization. “The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung is using German public funds for activities in Turkey. We are transparent and accountable not only to German authorities but due to our status in Turkey as an association [dernek], we are also transparent and accountable to the Turkish authorities. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation has never given any loan to anybody or any institution as this is not how we work nor is it possible due to our financial regulations,” he said.

Ulrike Dufner, the representative of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Association in Turkey, said they could not possibly donate to any agencies due to their legal status. “German associations active in Turkey cannot offer loans. What we do is just carry on projects with [civil society organizations] or with democratically elected municipalities. Legally, we are not allowed to provide loans,” she said.

She expressed unease with the prime minister’s comments, saying: “We don’t understand who the prime minister is getting at. It is clear that it’s not us because we aren’t allowed to offer loans. We believe the prime minister’s statement is not directed at us. But we are also wondering what’s wrong with carrying out projects with elected municipalities. We wonder whether Mr. Erdoğan advises us to cooperate with the municipalities of the Justice and Development Party [AK Party]. We don’t understand if it would be a crime to cooperate with the municipalities of the Republican People’s Party [CHP] and the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP].”

The Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung also made a statement on Monday, in response to allegations put forth by CHP Deputy Chairman Gökhan Günaydın that the foundation insinuated in Erdoğan’s speech was Konrad-Adenauer. “We have never given a single cent to the CHP or the BDP, or contributed financially to any project being carried out by either,” the foundation said in a statement made to the news website

German Embassy Counselor in charge of Press and Public Relations Patrick Heinz said it was too early to comment, saying German officials were still looking into the issue and will refrain from making statements until all the facts are established. The German Foreign Ministry told the Cihan news agency that it would follow the issue if “concrete evidence is presented.” A spokesperson for the ministry said, “The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization both in Germany and the EU.”

GIZ and KfW under spotlight

A Turkish daily claimed that the German foundations that are allegedly indirectly funneling money to the PKK could be Germany’s state-owned development bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the German sustainable development agency GIZ, formerly called GTZ. The Milliyet daily made the claim, citing unnamed sources.

The report said the German government and the KfW provided a total of 780 million euros in loans and donations for infrastructure, water treatment and drainage projects in many provinces, including Ankara and İstanbul, between 1980 and 2006. Although the prime minister said the foundations are signing loan deals with municipalities run by the main opposition CHP and the BDP, the report says the KfW also finances infrastructure projects of other municipalities, including those run by Erdoğan’s AK Party. Milliyet quoted BDP Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, who confirmed foreign funds’ assistance to the municipality, but said this aid is being inspected by the Treasury and the State Planning Organization (DPT).

Opposition responds

Also on Monday, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu responded to Erdoğan’s claims, saying he will fire any mayor who might have been implicated in such a scheme if the prime minister can show proof.

“I would show him [the mayor] the door if he [Erdoğan] proves these claims,” Kılıçdaroğlu told the Vatan daily on Monday. “This is grave slander,” he added, calling on the prime minister to provide solid evidence.

“Our deputy chairman, Gökhan Günaydın, who is responsible for local governments, is speaking to some 1,000 mayors to check whether such cooperation on loans exists or not. All of our municipalities will each file cases against this slander,” the CHP leader said.

In response to Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks, Erdoğan said on Monday during a press conference he held at the Ankara Esenboğa Airport before his departure to South Africa for an official visit that he would share the information he has with the CHP leader if he wants, but not through the media. “The CHP should investigate which CHP municipality made such [loan] agreements with which German foundation. I can only say that they are district municipalities. We will provide him with more specific information if he wants, but this will not be through the media. I cannot know whether he will show them [the mayors] the door or not. But they should know who is doing what,” Erdoğan said.

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