According to Vocal Europe, a Brussels-based online magazine, a number of European Parliament (EP) deputies are reportedly inquiring about the alleged ties of European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans to the Turkish government through a Dutch lobbying firm amid Timmermans’ public support for the official Turkish narrative on a July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.
Timmermans said in an interview with Knack, a Belgian magazine, on Tuesday that the Turkish government’s argument that Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen is behind the coup is not complete nonsense. He further argued that a US investigation revealed “growing indications” that the Gülen movement certainly played a role. He also supported the US extradition of Gülen to Turkey as is being requested by the Turkish government.
However, Vocal Europe tweeted on Wednesday that Timmermans’ office denied the comment about a US investigation, claiming that Knack distorted his words.
A number of deputies in the EP reportedly are inquiring about Timmermans’ links with a lobbying firm named INOVO BV, based in the Netherlands, that was founded by Ekim Alptekin, a supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who also directs the Turkey-US Business Council to promote the interests of the Turkish government.
Indeed, it turned out last week in a report by The Daily Caller that a top military aide of US President-elect Donald Trump, Gen. Michael Flynn, was also hired by this same lobbying company. Flynn penned an article supporting Erdoğan and criticizing Gülen right after the election of Trump last week.
According to records, Timmermans might not be the only influential European politician who is accused of having ties with a lobbying firm protecting Erdoğan’s interests in Europe. A publicly critical EP deputy from the Netherlands, Marietje Schaake, stated in her bio posted online that she is the co-founder of Dutch company INOVO BV, which is tied to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Erdoğan. As of Thursday, no statements had been made by either of these European politicians about the degree of their involvement with INOVO BV.
Timmermans, who has a critical role in a top EU institution that determines the course of relations with the EU, has also argued that the Turks have received very little sympathy from the outside world in the wake of the coup attempt of July 15.
Since the coup attempt, which President Erdoğan on the same night called “a great gift of God,” over 36,000 people have been arrested according to official numbers over alleged ties to the coup, while more than 110,000 have been dismissed from their positions in state institutions including teachers, academics, police officers, judges, prosecutors and other civic servants. Turkey has been witnessing the largest purge of its near history since July 15 under the extraordinary rule that was declared shortly after the coup attempt.
Meanwhile, relations between Turkey and the EU have been seriously strained since the former is planning to reinstate the death penalty, which was abolished in 2004 in accordance with EU membership criteria.
Several EU officials, such as Turkey rapporteur Kati Piri, have called for the suspension of membership talks with Turkey until the rule of law has been restored in the country. On Wednesday Piri and the EP announced the postponement of an upcoming visit to Ankara over a disagreement with the Turkish government. There were unconfirmed reports earlier that Piri had been banned from entering Turkey.
Nearly 150 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey as crackdown against the remaining critical media continues while the Kurdish opposition is being crushed.