On May 28, 2023, Turkish people in Germany celebrated as Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Turkeys presidential election, extending his rule into a third decade.

Turkey’s Diaspora Policies

Although previous Turkish governments have shown an interest in the Turkish diaspora in Europe, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has developed a more focused and comprehensive diaspora policy. It not only targets migrants from Turkey and their foreign-born children but also extends to non-Turkish Muslim diasporas. Amid the fluctuations and recurring tensions in EU-Turkey relations, the popularity of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP among Turkish diasporas has many in Europe’s capitals viewing Ankara’s influence over Turkish and Muslim diasporas as a significant challenge.

However, despite shared concerns about the Turkish government’s increased involvement in the lives of its diasporas across Europe and its instrumentalization of Islam, controversies about Ankara’s diaspora policy and discourses on integration policies have largely remained confined within the individual host countries.

This limited scope of debate can be attributed to differences in citizenship and migration laws, constitutional and institutional disparities regarding the governance of religious affairs, and variations in the size and impacts of Turkish migrants in different European states. 

Therefore, a comprehensive examination of the issue is needed. Rising right-wing tendencies across Europe make this even more urgent. To this end, the latest CATS reports analyse perceptions within selected EU member states about Turkey’s diaspora policies and explore the ongoing discussions there on how best to respond to evolving Turkish diaspora policies.

CATS Network Papers

    • Chiara Maritato

    Care and Control: Turkey’s Ambitions for ‘Its’ Domestic Abroad

    Under the rule of the AKP (Justice and Development Party), there has been increased attention given to the activities of Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in Europe by scholars as well as the general public. The number of religious officers sent to Turkish migrant communities has increased, and the number of religious services has expanded in scope and scale. Imams and preachers sent to Europe have been assigned a new pastoral mission to teach Islam to new generations and to provide religious and moral support for all aspect of life. Moreover, Diyanet’s extensive network is crucial to reconfiguring the diaspora’s sense of belonging in essentialist religious (Sunni Muslim) and nationalist (Turkish) terms. The report retraces this evolution, relating it to the recent strengthening of diaspora policies and institutions that are aimed at forging a loyal diaspora regarding religious and political behaviours.

    Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), CATS Network Paper, No. 03, 24 April 2024, 33 Pages

  • Turkey’s Policy towards its Diaspora in Germany: Consequences for Bilateral and Intersocietal Relations

    In last year’s Turkish parliamentary and presidential elections, President Erdoğan and his People’s Alliance received a significantly higher percentage of votes from Turkish voters living in Germany than from those living in Turkey. However, this does not necessarily mean that the present Turkish government has a strong grip on the Turkish diaspora as a whole as it is feared in German policy circles and media. Indeed, Ankara has not been able to establish strong control over the diaspora or to achieve the desired level of political mobilization beyond Islamist, conservative and nationalist milieus. Turkey’s diaspora policy is driven primarily by the aim to bind diaspora people and their organizations to Turkey in social, economic, and political terms and mobilize them in line with perceived national interests, such as cultivating and maintaining a positive image of Turkey and Turks, promoting economic and political relations with Germany and the EU, and countering more radical groups. However, the success of the present Turkish diaspora policy is modest and it also contributes to inner-community fragmentation in the diaspora and creates tensions in Turkey’s bilateral relations with Germany. This paper recommends that German policymakers and institutions adopt a comprehensive strategy that includes understanding the paradoxical nature of the diaspora, appreciating the transnational ties and orientations of Turks, and recognizing Islam as part of Germany.

    Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), CATS Network Paper, No. 04, 24 April 2024, 37 Pages

    • Cengiz Günay
    • Magdalena Übleis-Lang
    • Manuel Julius Bonat

    The Turkish Diaspora in Austria

    In most countries of Western Europe, the Turkish diaspora is a stronghold of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). In Austria, the Turkish diaspora is mainly characterised by labour migration, and migrants from Turkey constitute the largest Muslim community. Since the early 2000s, they have become the object of right-wing political discourses on integration and Islam. Long neglected by the Austrian and the Turkish state, migrants from Turkey have established their own cultural and religious associations. Today, many of them are largely affiliated with the AKP and have become important instruments for the AKP’s voter mobilisation efforts. With increasingly blurred boundaries between the state and the party in the last two decades, Turkey’s diaspora policy has also become increasingly partisan. Against this backdrop, this report provides an overview of the history and composition of the Turkish diaspora and its legal status in Austria. The second part highlights the AKP’s mobilisation strategies and sheds light on the complex network of associations, civil society organisations, and state agencies working in the party’s service.

    Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), CATS Network Paper, No. 05, 07 May 2024, 44 Pages

    • Aurélien Denizeau

    The Turkish Diaspora in France

    France has a comparatively large Turkish population. Almost 600,000 residents have Turkish nationality themselves, or were born to Turkish parents. Significant labour migration began in the 1970s, followed by family reunifications. Turkish political and religious organisations are very visible, although often comparatively small. Since the 2000s, the Turkish community has increasingly become politically active. This has created tensions around issues such as the Armenian Genocide and the French government’s moves to tighten control over Muslim organisations. However, Turkish nationalist and Muslim associations are poorly organised and deeply divided. Moreover, a gradual diplomatic rapprochement between France and Turkey since 2021 has eased tensions within France.

    Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), CATS Network Paper, No. 06, 08 May 2024, 31 Pages