Turkish Airlines offers discounts to members of pro-Erdoğan lobbying group in Europe

Turkey’s national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines, is offering discounts on ticket sales to members of the Union of International Democrats (UID), the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) lobbying organization in Europe, Turkish Minute reported, citing the German Focus Online news website.

A letter sent by UID Vice President Esma Koc Ağca to the German regional chairpersons of the UID said the UID’s financial affairs unit and THY had signed a cooperation agreement that went into effect on May 1.

Discounts of between 2 and 10 percent off ticket prices, marginal rebooking fees and an additional 10 kilos of free baggage are offered for everyone who presents their UID membership number when booking, according to the agreement.

“UID members are offered special discounts on Turkish Airlines (THY) flight tickets. This is a great opportunity to attract new members under this new agreement,” the letter states.

FOCUS Online contacted both THY and the UID and asked if the discounts, also reported by other news websites, really exist and if they also apply to members of Turkish opposition parties since the almost half of THY is owned by the state.

Neither THY nor the UID responded to Focus Online’s questions.

The UID, previously known as the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), is an organization operating in Europe that is controversial due to its promotion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP among Turks in Europe.

Since 2017 the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution considers the goals and actions of the Cologne-based organization, established in 2004 on orders from Erdoğan, to be incompatible with the free democratic order and thus monitors its activities.

The controversial activities of the UID also made their way into the 2023 annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in connection with the work of Turkish intelligence services. “They spy on associations and individuals in Germany who are actually or presumably in opposition to the Turkish government,” the report said. “Influence activities by Turkish organizations on communities of Turkish origin in Germany have taken place, which can have an impact on the political decision-making process or decision-making in Germany.”

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution names the UID as the “largest state or government-related interest group for exerting influence” operating in Germany.

The UID organizes most of the AKP’s election campaigns in Europe, where 1.5 million Turks are eligible to vote in Turkish elections.

In the run-up to the May 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkkey, AKP lawmakers traveled repeatedly to Germany to speak in mosques and at Turkish association events organized by the UID, even though Germany prohibits foreign politicians from being invited to campaign within the last three months of an election.

President Erdoğan in early May received UID delegates in Ankara ahead of the June 6-9 European elections.

Hundreds of delegates from 25 countries attended the four-day “UID Capacity Building and Training Workshop” at the presidential palace during which Erdoğan sought to mobilize Turks in Europe ahead of the European elections.

However, the Demokratische Allianz für Vielfalt und Aufbruch (Democratic Alliance for Diversity and Awakening, or DAVA), the newly established Turkish-Islamist political party in Germany, which is accused of having links Erdoğan, failed to receive enough votes to win a seat in the European Parliament.

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