Since I got no other feedback for some time the official answer to the question is "Not possible".
The rest of this answer provides the best workaround I was able to come up with. It connects the shares in a proper way and have them securely and easy accessible in the home directory.
An SMB mount will not work if you do not have 'cifs-utils' installed. As often in Linux, when that is missing you will get very cryptic and misleading error messages, e.g. "Mount: wrong fs type, bad option, bad superblock on //myserver/sharename,..."
sudo apt install cifs-utils
For proper security, put in a password file in your home directory. It holds your SMB passwords in clear, so do not forget to secure the file (see below). Note that those depend on the share, they could be different from you login password of the Linux machine.
Do not forget to secure the fily by making it inaccessible for any others than your own user:
chmod 400 ~/.smbcredentials
Now create the directories where the shares should appear (mount points)
For each share add a line to the fstab file like this. I have not found a way around giving your user ID and group ID, at least I have not found one (I think its very inelegant as that info should go into the credentials file). Its a long line. Be careful with the spaces. Do not add any where are none.
sudo edit nano /etc/fstab
//myserver/sharename /home/joe/network/myserver/sharename cifs credentials=/home/joe/.smbcredentials,uid=1000,gid=1000,iocharset=utf8,sec=ntlm, 0 0
Find the uid and gid with the command
Finally, let the system re-mount anything in the fstab file:
sudo mount -a
Now all network shares are accessible in the home directory in the folder "network". Its not as cool as browsing the network in Windows Explorer, but in fact its a lot faster :-)
Its not a real answer to the initial question, since the question asked for network browsing, but its the best usable alternative I have come across. I am going to mark this answer as "answered" in order to close the question. But I will be very happy when anyone in the future finds a way to make the network browsing function of the file managers accessible to all tools.