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The Turkish Diaspora in Germany and Turkish Public Diplomacy

November 17, 2014

Narendra Modi has been using his travels to mobilize support among the Indian disapora in the US and in Australia but he’s not the only national leader to do this Recep Tayip Erdogan has been doing the same with the Turkish diaspora. With this in mind the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik have a newish working paper by Yaşar Aydin on developments in Turkish Diaspora policy and its implications for Germany.

The paper traces the evolution of Turkish policy towards its diaspora from support for guest workers who were abroad on a temporary basis, through consular support for people of Turkish descent to the current situation which, for the first time sees the diaspora as potential public diplomacy/soft power tool. The changing perspective on the diaspora is linked to broader shifts in Turkey and in Turkish foreign policy towards a neo-Ottoman perspective. Aydin interviews Turkish organizations in Germany and finds that most of them are (at best) pretty lukewarm about the new initiatives, not least because some of the ‘Turkish’ organization are actually Kurdish. As a result Aydin argues that German political leaders can afford to be relatively relaxed about the new policy.

The paper supports three broader observations that I would make on public diplomacies.  Firstly, the nature of a country’s PD is tied to its self conception and the paper does a nice job making this connection.  Secondly, the implied divergence between what the government wants to do and what people on the ground think about their policy is pretty standard.  Thirdly, diaspora policies are useful tools but can become liabilities if the countries involved become involved in diplomatic disagreement, countries like India, China, Russia and Turkey that regard themselves as rising diplomatic powers could usefully pay attention to the way in which pre 1945 German attempts to instrumentalize their diaspora consistently undermined their diplomatic relations with other countries.

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