Ankara’s problems with the countries of the European Union are mounting.
The EU will hold this week a summit to discuss sanctions against Turkey, because of its continued military build-up and oil exploration off the Greek coast.
In addition to Ankara’s blackmail of Europe with the refugee crisis, its refusal to abide by its pledges at the Berlin conference on Libya, and its recent intervention in the escalation between Azerbaijan and Armenia, a new chapter has recently emerged, represented by Turkey’s intelligence operations in Europe, specifically in Austria and Germany, where there is a large Turkish community.
Adrian Hanni, an expert at the Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies, estimates the number of Turkish spies in Austria to be close to 200, noting that the Turkish spy network was the second largest in Austria and Germany, after the Russian network.
The intelligence expert explained that Ankara’s recruitment of agents takes place in two ways: either by luring them with money through Turkish diplomatic missions in Vienna or groups of mosques and religious organizations deployed in Austria, or through arrests.
He explained: “After arresting a person in Turkey, the Turkish security authorities make the detainee chose between facing imprisonment and carrying out spying operations on opponents.”
Hanni noted that Austria’s public move against Turkish intelligence was “a warning not to cross the red lines.” He added that Vienna “usually tolerates espionage operations as long as the matter is not related to its own security.”
Austria had pledged to take steps against Turkey after the arrest of a Turkish expert a few weeks ago, which it said had confessed to carrying out espionage operations for Ankara.
These espionage operations have caused the arrest of more than 35 Turkish citizens, who also hold Austrian citizenship, when they visited their relatives in Turkey. Upon their arrival at the airport, the Turkish authorities confronted them with pictures of them demonstrating against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Vienna at the end of June.
Security experts believe that the European country is investigating other cases of espionage led by Turkey on its soil.
In recent weeks, Austria arrested a Turkish spy in Vienna, and the Turkish opposition uncovered a plot that Turkish intelligence was preparing to carry out assassinations in Vienna targeting politicians who had uncovered a Turkish spy network in the country.