Thursday, April 23, 2009

Immigrant Diplomats....

I found an interesting article about Turkey and a possible public diplomacy effort in Europe. There are about five million Turkish immigrants living in Europe in 2008. Turkey has been trying to secure membership in the European Union (EU) since 1999. But their efforts have been fruitless as Germany and France continue to refuse their bid.

According to the article, “Turks living in Germany could be public diplomacy tool

Burak Erdenir, advisor to minister of state and minister of EU affairs and chief negotiator Egemen Bağış, said: “Turkey should start to invigorate Turkish immigrants in Europe as an effective diplomatic tool for EU membership. They have been in Europe for 50 years, but Turkey has not managed to mobilize them.’’

And continues to say that

‘’Euro Turks’’ are very important in building Turkey’s image in Europe, Erdenir underlined the significant role Turkish intellectuals, artists and writers could play in influencing European public opinion by referring to the award Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan won at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. He claimed this award helped change the negative image of Turkey.

Erdenir has a very simplistic idea of how Turkish immigrants can be used as a diplomatic tool to promote Turkey’s image and possibly gain membership in the EU. However, it seems like he doesn’t take into account whether or not these immigrants will identify with Turkey or with the country they are residing in. Maybe the 1st generation Turkish immigrants will identify with Turkey, whereas the 2nd generation or later Turkish immigrants might identify as either French or German. At most, these Turkish immigrants can disseminate their cultural tradition.

Also, it makes me wonder if Erdenir takes into account how these countries already view Turkey because of the large number of Turkish immigrants. If Turkey tries to mobilize its immigrant population in other countries as a form of public diplomacy to become a member of the EU, I can see it having negative effects from both the immigrant population and the countries they are trying to influence.


  1. Along with not accounting for which country the immigrants will identify with, Erdenir seems to also not take into account the tumultuous times some of the immigrants have faced, for simply being immigrants. I don't want to be crass, but this could be likened to the way that many Mexican immigrants are viewed in the US.
    Believe me, I think it would be wonderful if EU member countries would start to recognize all of their citizens, however, this article mentions that it has already been this way for 50 years. The fact is, most EU countries already have an idea of what nationality their country contains, and immigrants are often on the periphery of this idea, if they are even in it at all. So, although using immigrants for PD of Turkey seems like a good idea, these immigrants would first have to be welcomed into these countries, when oftentimes, that is not the case.

  2. I agree with Rebecca's comment completely, and would add that this applies to the European government's willingness to listen to the immigrants as well as to the immigrants' willingness to speak for Turkey to begin with. There is a lot of xenophobia in Europe regarding Muslim populations, with the fear that Islam will somehow 'take over' Europe. Opposition to Turkey's joining the EU is a part of this conversation - in many ways, the large Turkish immigrant population is the reason Turkey's bid to join faces such opposition. While its a very nice idea, drawing attention to the public connection between Turkish immigrants and their country of origin seems more likely to exacerbate fears and stiffen opposition to Turkey's bid.

  3. I also have to say that I agree with the aforementioned comments, but also want to comment on perhaps why Europeans are so reluctant to have Turkey join the EU. While I do understand Erdenir's logic that perhaps Turkish relations could be improved by starting with Turkish immigrants, I think that he is attempting to shift attention away from the real reasons why Turkey isn't a good candidate for EU admission. Turkey has a poor human rights record, the military has a large influence, and given the large population of the country, Turkey would have a large say in EU relations. If I were the EU, I'd be saying no as well. Perhaps in an effort to improve its bid for EU membership, Turkey should improve its internal situation first. Given that EU membership is a carrot, this should be sufficient incentive.