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Home states have been establishing institutions and other state-initiated mechanisms which motivate and control emigrants’ social, political and economic contributions to national interests. Turkey has been one of those sending countries and has been engaging with its citizens abroad since the 1960s. Since the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi – AKP) came to power in Turkey in 2002, Turkey has been revising its policy towards its citizens abroad via both discursive references and policy changes. Currently, one can observe a clear trend of efforts to mobilise the diaspora with a holistic approach that simultaneously includes social, economic and political agendas. This new approach has a clear political and economic orientation that fits perfectly into mechanisms of diaspora-building strategies throughout the world, which are categorised by scholars such as Gamlen (2008) and Ragazzi (2014).

This presentation analyses the reasons behind Turkey’s development of emigration and diaspora engagement policies and explains the drivers of policy changes over the last 50 years. Going beyond discussions on public diplomacy and neo-liberal diaspora engagement policies, it critically discusses the political motivations of diaspora-making in the light of Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy agendas. The presentation argues that the diaspora policy is largely related to Turkey’s newly emerging self-perception as a global economic and political power and its imagination of its own transnational polity, which is primarily related to its understanding of who constitutes the ‘Turkish nation’. Therefore, the policy formations regarding mobile citizens and the diaspora come from a general global trend, as a result of increased migration and consequently migration management, but they have also been influenced by the ideological motives of the new ruling elite in Turkey. The final part of the presentation will also focus on the current developments in the Netherlands and Germany regarding AKP’s transnational election campaigns and in Bulgaria regarding Turkey’s intervention in cross-border elections.