Turkish Migration to Germany within the EU-Turkey Relationship. Effects on Identity, Culture, Public Perception and Politics

Master's Thesis 2015 49 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: European Union


Table of contents

1. Introduction
1.1. Hypothesis
1.2. State of research
1.3. Aim of the thesis

2. Migration structures between Turkey and Germany
2.1. Migration and integration theories
2.2. Historical migration relationship
2.3. Integration in Germany
2.3.1. Turkish culture and identity in Germany
2.3.2. Religious, cultural and geographical issues as tensioning factors
2.3.3. Initiatives for (cultural) integration

3. Turkey and the European Union – Quo vadis?
3.1. Historical development
3.2. Status Quo
3.2.1. Present obstacles
3.2.2. Migration and human rights issues

4. Germany's special position within the EU accession process
4.1. Role of Germany’s Turkish community
4.2. Role of religion, culture and (European) identity in the public debate
4.3. Role of the German media
4.4. Role of German politics
4.5. Possible migration effects on Germany of a Turkish EU accession

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

"The shared objective of the negotiations is accession. These negotiations are an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand." (Council of the European Union 2005)

Before the start of the accession negotiations for Turkey’s membership in the European Union (EU) on 3. October 2005, a press release had already declared their potential failure, implicating the existing concerns and reservations towards the arrangement. For more than fifty years the European Community and later the EU have been talking to Ankara about an accession of Turkey into the EU. From the Association Agreement in 1963, to its official qualification as candidate country in 1999 and the subsequent opening of accession negotiations. Since then, talks have made good progress and Turkey has been integrated into the EU in many areas. But despite all efforts, there are still many issues on both sides that seem to make it an endless process. The possible membership of Turkey in the EU is an issue of special economic, political and cultural weight and it remains questionable whether a full membership would be granted or a “second class” membership, riddled with exceptions, safeguard and passerelle clauses.

Within the EU, Germany maintains a special relationship with Turkey. The latter’s course for the EU candidature was decided upon under the German EU Council presidency in 1999 and nearly three million people of Turkish descent call Germany their home while Germans often chose Turkey as their favourite travel and business destination. Moreover, Germany is the most important trade partner for Turkey (bilateral trading volume 2014: € 27.1 bn) (Auswärtiges Amt 2015).

Within the German -Turkish relationship, this thesis focusses particularly on the aspect of migration from Turkey to Germany, its motivations, implications and structures within the process of Turkey’s potential future membership of the EU.

1.1. Hypothesis

The hypothesis that this Master Thesis is proposing is that Turkish migration to Germany and all its implications have been playing and are still playing an important role in Turkey’s way to EU accession. Growing transnational structures between Turkey and Germany and with it new forms of identity and culture and a change of public perception and contribution as well as politics are having a major impact on the long-lasting accession process to the EU.

1.2. State of research

The topic of the thesis is examining a dynamic process that is constantly developing and changing. While the major flow of Turkish migration to Germany started just before the EU candidature, a big Turkish community is now living in the country and has been subject to various research and analysis. The present thesis is first giving an overview of migration structures between Turkey and Germany over time, starting from the 20th century, as well as the changing migration profile of Turkish migrants and their transforming integration profile in Germany. To receive information about those profiles and characteristics, statistical data concerning migration developments and structures are consulted as well as academic literature from Germany and Turkey. These engage in migration and integration theories (e.g. Lee 1966; Stark 1993; Glorius et al. 2009) as well as issues such as the question of culture and identity (e.g. Abadan-Unat 2005; Detsch 2011; Bax 2011).

The following analysis of important steps and events, current status and issues of the relationship of Turkey and the EU within its candidacy is conducted by reports of EU (member state) institutions and findings of research projects from official Turkish and European institutes (e.g. Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2015; Littoz-Monnet 2005; European Commission 2014).

The last chapter analyses Germany’s position within the EU accession process of Turkey and examines its role and influence of different state agents as well as the Turkish migrants and their descendants living in Germany itself. It takes into consideration different sources of actual academic literature, discussions and observations as well as official German foreign policy statements (e.g. Müller-Graff et al. 2012; Timmerman et.al. 2008; Auswärtiges Amt 2015). In addition, it looks deeper at current issues and positions of the German media and politics concerning Turkey within the country and in Turkey itself and finally gives an outlook on possible both positive and negative effects on Germany in case of a successful accession of Turkey to the EU. In order to grasp a wide spectrum of positions and the current status of the dynamic process, the literature is composed by various separate recent articles and contributions.

1.3. Aim of the thesis

The aim of the thesis is to provide an overview of the current situation and relationship between Turkey and Germany, which arise from past and current migration flows and connections between the two countries. These findings together with an analysis of the development and status quo of Turkey’s relationship with the EU as a whole are subsequently trying to figure out Germany’s position and influence on the EU accession process. In order to deliver a profound and specialised piece of research within a limited scope, the thesis is focussing on issues of migration and integration as well as human rights as contentious factors concerning Turkey’s EU accession. Finally, it is trying to give an outlook on further developments, chances and challenges for all sides. It is thereby only marginally regarding other important matters such as geopolitical and economic relations that have to be considered for a holistic assessment of the Turkey – Germany/EU relations. The paper intends to increase the reader’s consciousness and knowledge about the German impact and position in Turkey’s way to an EU accession, while presupposing a reader that is conversant with the subject and the history of the Turkey and the EU.

2. Migration structures between Turkey and Germany

In 2011, German - Turkish migration was celebrated at societal, political and scientific levels in light of the 50th anniversary of the 1961 German-Turkish recruitment agreement, which was an important milestone for the German-Turkish relations and of Germany becoming a de-facto-country of immigration for Turkish emigrants. In order to understand Germany's role towards Turkey within the European Union, it is helpful to examine the migration history, structures and effects within the context of the German-Turkish relationship.

The complex and dynamic relations date back to the eleventh century and have been marked by manifold interests: on one hand rivalry, religious conflicts and opposing to power have clouded historical relations, while strong cultural, military and social connections have shaped their common history. Germany, as a large, economically and politically influential EU country with a constant in- and outflow of Turkish citizens, continues to influence societal and political perceptions of the country in both Germany and the EU towards the long lasting candidate country. In the following chapter, especially the migration structures that evolved after the recruitment agreement of 1961 will be looked at in detail. An initial review of different theories of migration and integration is followed by a brief historical background in order to then look at the extent and forms integration of German citizens of Turkish descent.

2.1. Migration and integration theories

When taking a look at migration from a scientific point of view, it is possible to observe a change of structures and perspectives. The classical migration theories used to focus mainly on economic factors, whereas on a macroeconomic level they explain above all migration movements, like for example the Ravenstein'sche migration laws from 1885/1889. Ravenstein derived his migration laws from census evaluations concerning internal migration in United Kingdom between 1871 and 1881. His main findings were that most migrants move over short distances, migration takes place in stages, female migrants travel over shorter distances than men, cities grow faster through net migration gains then through natural population growth and migration over longer distances are mostly focussed on large industrial and commercial cities (Ravenstein 1885, p.48).

Another classical migration theory is the push-pull approach by Everett S. Lee. It presupposes that people are “pushed” from a certain area or region, while they get “pulled” by another one. Push factors can be for example economic problems like unemployment or high taxes and costs or social problems like poverty, discrimination or prosecution. Pull factors can correspondingly be prosperity, good employment options, security, good accommodation and education possibilities and high (e.g. sexual or religious) tolerance (Lee 1966, pp. 47-57). The theory has been applied on problems of national as well as international migration.

On a micro level, classical theories like the Stark’s "New Economics of Migration" examined motivations for migration (1993). Structuralist approaches broadened the view by taking into account structural frameworks and considered social, political and demographical constellations in the countries of origin and the target societies (Lim et al. 1992). While all those theories concentrate on the triggers of migration, theories like the network theory (Massey et al. 1993) or the transnational approach deal with the question why migration processes continue even when conditions change or improve. While formal and informal networks are objects of migration network theories, developments of social spaces and identities of migrants are examined by the transnational research approach (Glorius et al. 2009). Transnational migrants are people, who migrate temporarily or permanently for various reasons and who maintain or build up different connections to their countries of origin and their country of residence. By their double connectedness with two or more countries, they create realities that go beyond national borders and that in the scientific debate are called "transnational social spaces", firstly mentioned by Thomas Faist (Abadan-Unat 2005, p. 29). They differ from concepts that see a conformity between social and territorial spaces. Even if those transnational social spaces are affected by national and global structures, they are created by social, political, economic and cultural cross border connections of the persons (Glick Schiller et al. 1997). Only those, who take into consideration those new developments of human mobility will being able to understand migration and to draft appropriate new concepts for science, politics and everyday life.

When looking at the alteration of migration science, it is important to understand that for centuries it was supposed that modern societies would live in stable national borders and that being settled was standard. Classical migration science interprets international migration movements as a one-time change of location from A to B. Transnational migration science opens up a new perspective resulting from globalisation and transnationalization[1]. It assumes that today, cross-border migration can no longer only be considered a uni-directorial change of location. Cross-border migration nowadays increasingly means transnational and permanent migration with close connections to the country of residence as well as with the country of origin. Reasons for these developments can be seen in the globalised and grown economy, the increased number of transnational families through long lasting migration movement between two states, the different engagement of the sending countries to involve the migrants into the national culture and economy, diverse exclusion mechanisms of the target countries, technological developments that simplify communication and information as well as cheaper and quicker transport options that make contacts between people easier. According to Pusch, the expansion and cross generational continuity of this kind of migration has created many different new styles of life that influence all agents (individuals, families, countries of origins, countries of residences etc.) as well as all aspects of everyday life (professional life, social integration etc.) (2013, p. 12).

In order to understand and assess the dynamics and structures of German-Turkish migration and the migrants’ integration within Germany, there are four integration models that can be considered and that might be of help when examining the dynamics. They describe the relation of migration and integration and were assessed by the German sociologist Ludger Pries (2013): The first one is the so called guest-worker-model, where country A "invites" particular population groups of country B as "guests" and sends them back two or three years later. This “guest stay” can be advantageous for both countries as well as the migrants and integration is only marginally intended from both sides if at all, with the prospect of a return and the priority of work and financial earnings. This was what happened at the time of the Recruitment Agreement of Turkish Guest Workers in 1961. The involved parties both assumed that it provided for a duration of stay limited to about two to three years. It was even explicitly intended by the German government in order to prevent the guest workers from becoming "rooted". But while about two third of the labour migrants returned to Turkey, often much later than planned, one third of them stayed in Germany and marked the beginning of the necessity of integration into German society. While the effects of the guest worker model may rationally seem to be mutually beneficial, the Swiss playwright and novelist Max Frisch expressed the critical and important aspects of integration in his famous statement of 1966: "We called for workers, but it was human beings who came." The guest workers were people with rights, expectations and different lifestyles and could not be seen or treated as human machines.

The second model is the melting-pot-model, which connects a certain image of migration with a specific understanding of integration: people migrate from one country to the other and "melt" into the society of residence within a shorter or longer period of time (sometimes over generations). International migration is here seen as clear change of location and social/cultural orientation, as assimilation of many different cultures that come together and become mixed in one “pot”, creating something new. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, cities like New York as well as the German Ruhr area were also examples of metropolitan melting pots.

Due to the fact that many of the phenomena could not be completely explained by the melting-pot-model and an assimilation of migrants was proven to be only partially possible, the USA came up with the salad-bowl -model in the 1980s. It assumes, that people that migrate from country A to B will not conglomerate fully into a new social entity but rather maintain specific cultural patterns of orientation within the country of residence. This results in ethnic communities or even ethnic, cultural or religious ghettos and distinct social spaces that reflect their country of origin exist as identifiable "salad pieces" in the immigrant countries. Such constellations are found in countries with a long migration history like the United Kingdom, but also in countries like Germany, with a rather young migration history and assimilationist integration policy.

Empirical findings for the validity of this model can be seen in the language competencies of young people with a migration background in second or third generation. They can sometimes be worse than those of the first generation. While the first generation has been eager to assimilate into the country of residence, later generations have often been subject to permanent discrimination regarding career and education opportunities and have decided to re-orientate themselves back to values and lifestyles of their family’s country of origin.

As not all migration phenomena can be described by these three models there is a fourth model which was developed in the 1990s: the spaghetti-model. In contrast to the melting-pot and salad-bowl model, which always deal with target-oriented migration from one country to the other and where integration and assimilation are only related to the country of arrival, it assumes that there are complex migration movements and commuting between countries. This results in social connection strings of a relatively permanent and tight nature, comparable with spaghetti between two national "bowls", where transnational social networks develop. Transnational migration is here seen as “nomadic life” in the sense of multiple changes of place that are not clearly focussed in one direction within a multi-local transnational space.

This can be partly observed between Mexico and the US and China and Canada, but also between Germany and Turkey, which will be examined in detail later in this chapter (Pries 2013).

2.2. Historical migration relationship

In order to understand the German-Turkish relationship and its dynamics, it is crucial to take a closer look on its migration history. The German-Turkish migration process was officially started in 1961 but Turkish-German relations had already evolved during the former Ottoman Empire (1299 to 1922), when in 1985, German officers were sent to Turkey to support the modernisation of the Ottoman army. Moreover, German entrepreneurs and bankers started a large-scale economic cooperation with Turkey by building a railway from Istanbul to Ankara, known as the “Anatolian railway”, in 1889, followed by a friendship, trade and shipping treaty (Demm 2005).

From the 1920s onwards, Turkey actively recruited German scientists, artists and architects to modernise and develop cultural institutions, bureaucratic structures and urban development. A flow of exiled German scientists contributed significantly to the reform of the Turkish academic system during the years of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. But the presence of Germans in Turkey during that time didn't only mean a one-way transfer of Western/ European knowledge. It also influenced the way of thinking, living and working of the German migrants and persons living in exile and through their later return also the German post-war society and the image of Turkey as a modernising, secular and tolerant country (Kubaseck et al. 2008). The foundation of the German-Turkish University (“Deutsch-Türkische Universität”) in 2013, is rooted in this long tradition of Germany’s foreign cultural and educational policy (Deutsch-Türkische Universität 2013).

Turkey’s orientation towards the West which had previously been initiated by Kemal Atatürk, started to focus on the European Economic Community (EEC) from the 1960s onwards. At Community level, the Association Treaty, known as the “Ankara Agreement”, was concluded in 1963 and motivated many Turkish workers to migrate to various EEC countries and in particular Germany (European Council 1973). In that respect, the “Agreement on the Recruitment of Turkish Migrant Workers” in 1961 was a large step towards a closer relationship between Germany and Turkey and was the first active recruitment of Turkish citizens to Germany. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Germans needed manpower support to help restoring their weakened industries. So until the 1990’s, around four million Turkish citizens came to Germany as the largest group of guest workers (“Gastarbeiter”) looking for job opportunities. More than half of them returned back to their home country. The remaining Turkish immigrants settled down in Germany and became the biggest group of immigrants in the country up to today. By the end of 1961, 6.800 Turkish citizens were living in Germany, but by 1972, that figure had increased in the wake of the Ankara agreement to 800.000 (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung 2011a). Official recruitment came to an abrupt halt due to a blanket ban on recruitment in 1973 fuelled by the international oil crisis and its economic implications and effect on German politics. Western European countries including Germany, stopped the recruitment of migrant labourers from non-EC states, but granted those who were already working and living in their national territories an unlimited residence permit and the right to family reunion (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung 2011b).

However, existing migrant networks and the German government’s decision to allow Turkish family reunions meant that migrant flows continued and even increased, while its demographic structure changed between 1973 and 1983. These policies gave migrants in Germany secure future prospects and now changed the German demography. In 1973, there were 910.500 Turks in Germany, most of whom were male, but by 1974 this had increased to account for the number of Turkish women and children who had arrived to reunite with their husbands and fathers and to become permanent inhabitants of Germany. In 1982, the (now mixed) Turkish population reached 1,580,700 persons. Concurrently, the number of irregular labour migrants started to increase in the 1980s and 1990s as a consequence of the so called coup d'état of 1980 in Turkey and the outbreak of military conflicts between Turkish security forces and the former separatist party Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK) in the Eastern part of Turkey that is largely inhabited by kurds (Türkiye İşverenler Sendikası Konfederasyonu 2006).

The author, historian and anthropologist Emmanuel Todd described the conditions for Turkish immigrants in Germany during that period in his book “The destiny of the immigrants” from 1998:

Between 1960 and 1990 the German differentialistic concept of culture obtruded the Turks the role of the stigmatised group, as if they were predestined by history to embody the principle of human diversity on German ground.”

But soon, the discussion on Germany as a “multicultural society” came up and with it the question of a definition of culture. A mix of many different nationalities and lifestyles in Germany had been arisen from the immigration of not only Turkish migrants, but also others such as Italian, Spanish, Greek, Moroccan, Tunisian or Yugoslavian migrants that were also recruited through guest-worker agreements. In their Berlin Declaration of May 1984, the European ministers for education defined culture as “entirety of values that convey to human kind the sense of their existence and actions”. It called upon the Europeans to focus their endeavours on ”maintenance of their cultural heritage, development of creational activities and human capabilities, protection of freedom, support of participation, enhancement of solidarity and creation of the future”. Moreover, the declaration demands respect for cultural identity of labour migrants, minorities and religions as well as a creation of conditions that serve a better mutual understanding of people of different ages, cultures, religions and traditions (Deutsche Unesco Kommission Bonn 1985). A definition of what is culture has always been a difficult and controversial question. The 2004 Report of the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) asks for cultural freedom and ethnical diversity and claims that culture was “not a dead accumulation of values and traditions, but rather something that is permanently inspired, when people question their values and traditions, adapt them to new circumstances and redefine them through an exchange of ideas with others”. It sees respect of identity as the only approach for a sustainable development of multicultural societies and states that everyone was able to identify themselves with different groups. The identity of a person has various different attributes such as nationality, sex, race, language, political attitudes or religious affiliation and within these groupings, one still has the possibility to prefer one group membership to another one in different contexts (Frankfurter Rundschau 2004). For example if a German of Turkish descent is working for the German government but at the same time is a fan of the Turkish national football club.

So the question of how to arrange and unfold the cultural diversity in Germany in order to create a social perspective of common instead of co-existent societies had to be faced. The following subchapters are looking at the status of Turkish integration in Germany.

2.3. Integration in Germany

When looking at the Turkish migrants and their descendants living in Germany, different forms of integration can be observed, depending on their generation and the constellation of origin and arrival. For the current generations of Turkish descendants in Germany, their lifestyles and orientation are often not geared to one country in particular, but are set up within a transnational social space between the two countries. By looking at the terms describing the Turkish immigrants over time, it is possible to identify a transformation and an integration process. While in the 60s and 70s they were generally denounced as "guest workers" ("Gastarbeiter"), focussing on their economic function in the German society at that time, they are now perceived as Euro Turks or German Turks (“Deutschtürken” or Turkish: “Almanci”) (Abadan-Unat 2005). This can create a kind of discrepancy when it comes to the question of identity. People sometimes feel neither German nor Turkish, but rather in between, having soaked up characteristics of German culture, while partly keeping up habits and lifestyles associated with Turkey. A new form identity and culture evolved, influenced mainly through various German and Turkish lifestyles and values. The following subchapters will try to identify important issues and problems but also initiatives and achievements in integrating people of Turkish descent living in Germany.

2.3.1. Turkish culture and identity in Germany

Three million people of Turkish descent are currently living in Germany, with around 1.4 million holding German citizenship and around 1.5 million holding Turkish citizenship (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung 2014). Positive experiences come along with negative impressions that are caused by a clash of cultures and that often leading to misunderstandings, a lack of communication and the rise of manifold prejudices towards the foreign culture. These quickly tended to be projected from the German-Turks towards the Turks as a whole (Müller-Graff et al. 2012).

While structural integration of the first (especially female) Turkish immigrant generation living in Germany show huge deficits, a large part of their descendants are well integrated into German society (Bundesministerium des Inneren 2008). However, since the year of 2006 the number of Turks leaving Germany to go back to Turkey has been exceeding the number of Turkish immigrants to Germany (2012: 32.788 to Turkey, 28.641 to Germany) (ibid.). Highly qualified Germans with Turkish backgrounds seem to be especially motivated to leave Germany for their country of origin to apply their appreciated expertise and skills. Suat Bakir from the Turkish-German Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Cologne sees different reasons for this development: The economic upturn of Turkey with its increasing globalised structures and growing demand for highly qualified workers probably plays an important role, but so too does a rise in resentment towards German-Turks in recent years. For some of them, the perception of not being accepted and welcomed in their host country is still prevailing (Detsch 2011). The cultural gap between lifestyles, habits and religions sometimes seem to leave Turkish migrants feeling like strangers and has sometimes lead to development of mutual scepticism and sometimes even an antipathy. A complex preservation of the Turkish culture and religion has been taken on by a large number of Turkish organisations existing in Germany, which has created an extensive transnational German-Turkish network with strong bonds to their home country (see chapter 2.3.3.). So strong connections with Turkey, especially of the first generation of Turkish (guest-worker) migrants in Germany may partly explain their missing socio-political integration in Germany.

In the nineties, the large Turkish newspapers Hürriyet started to publish an edition for Germany with a run of 103.000 copies at that time. The actual run dropped to 20.000, which seems to not only result from the general global newspaper crisis. According to Sevda Boduroglu, director of Hürriyets publisher Dogan Media International GmbH, Turkish newspapers in Germany are affected by language barriers of younger people of Turkish descent and their shift of interest from Turkey towards Germany.

In contrast Turkish culture and public figures of Turkish descent have become more visible in the German media in recent years. Popular German-Turkish comedians (e.g. Kaya Yanar), actors (e.g. Sibel Kekilli), directors (e.g. Fatih Atkin) and movies (e.g. “Türkisch für Anfänger”, “Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland”, “Takva – Gottesfurcht”) depict an interest and attention towards Turkish people and their lifestyle throughout German culture and society. By often dealing with the differences and characteristics of the two cultures in a humorous, ironic and self-depreciating way, understanding of Turkish culture is becoming more accessible and comprehensible. However, the director Faith Akin pointed out the interpretations of this fame after his film breakthrough with “Head-On” (“Gegen die Wand”) in 2004 saying: “If you are successful, you are regarded as a German in Germany and as a Turk in Turkey. If not, it’s the other way around” (Bax 2011).

One of the most successful imports of Turkish culture is its food: the Turkish dish known as “Döner Kebap” has become one of the most popular fast/street foods in Germany, providing serious competition for chains like McDonalds. Sixteen thousand Döner Kebap shops in Germany employ sixty thousand people and serve around three million Döner per day, generating a profit of 3.5 million Euro per year (Schmid 2011).

But integration has not only been an active issue in Germany. There have also been effects on Turkey and its culture as a result of an intensified cultural exchange that started with the Turkish guest-worker migration and then the partial remigration to Turkey much later. Turkey has profited from close bonds to its German diaspora and the experience, lifestyles and values that repatriates brought with them. The remigrants were pioneers of a cultural change in Turkey, which is also highly visible in today’s youth culture. One example is the German-Turkish singer Tarkan, who was born in Germany and migrated to his parents’ home country at the age of fourteen and went on to become one of the most popular popstars in Turkey, well known for his provocative social non-conformance, metrosexual look and outright love lyrics (Bax 2011).


[1] Transnationality connotes the social practices of agents (individuals, groups, communities and organizations) across the national borders. The term denotes a spectrum of cross-border ties in various spheres of social life, from travel to remittances or the exchange of ideas


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University of Bonn – Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung
Türkei EU Migration Gastarbeiter EU-Türkei Beziehungen Turkey Guest workers Germany Deutschland EU-Turkey relations




Title: Turkish Migration to Germany within the EU-Turkey Relationship. Effects on Identity, Culture, Public Perception and Politics