Migration Diplomacy and Turkish-EU relations

Migration Diplomacy and Turkish-EU relations

Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership

SEESOX is delighted to announce that its application for seed funding from the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership to support its project entitled “Migration Diplomacy and Turkish-EU relations” has been approved. The amount awarded is 23,000 euros and will be divided between SEESOX in Oxford and Humboldt University in Berlin. The project will be coordinated by Othon Anastasakis and will involve SEESOX researchers, Foteini Kalantzi, Mehmet Karli and Manolis Pratsinakis. The seed funding will support a series of brainstorming meetings in Oxford, Berlin and Brussels during the calendar year of 2020 to discuss and identify the issues related to Turkey’s foreign policy and the country’s relations with the EU in the shadow of the migration crisis; it also aims at preparing an application for a larger research grant.

In December 2017, the University of Oxford announced the formation of a new research partnership with four institutions in Berlin: the Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin and the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. In its initial stages, the partnership will build on existing research links and also create an environment for taking forward new projects across the five institutions, including all areas of academic research and also within the museums and libraries of both Berlin and Oxford. Its ambition is to allow Oxford academics and researchers to spend time in Berlin, collaborating with colleagues in the Charité teaching hospital and the three Berlin universities, and also enable academics and researchers from Berlin to spend time in departments and colleges in Oxford.

In time, the intention is that the University will establish a physical centre in Berlin, the Oxford–Berlin Research Centre. The partnership has the strong support of the Mayor of Berlin, who has indicated that he will seek to provide a building for the new centre. In the short term, Oxford will establish an office and legal presence in Berlin, which should enable Oxford and Berlin academics jointly to continue to put forward research applications to EU funding programmes as well as to German and British research funders and foundations.

Migration Diplomacy and Turkish-EU Relations is a research project developed by South East European Studies at Oxford (SEESOX), University of Oxford, Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research of Humboldt University (BIM), and the Berlin-based German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM).

The Principal Investigators of the project are:
Dr Othon Anastasakis, Director of SEESOX
Dr Mehmet Karli, Co-Ordinator of Programme on Contemporary Turkey at SEESOX
Dr Franck Düvell, Head of Migration Department, DeZIM
Dr Serhat Karakayalı from BIM

In addition to the principal investigators, the SEESOX team includes

Ms Ezgi Basaran, researcher at SEESOX
Dr Foteini Kalantzi, A.G. Leventis Research Officer at SEESOX
Dr Manolis Pratsinakis, SEESOX/Onassis Research Fellow at the DPIR
Ms Asli Tore, Research Assistant

This one-year project is seed-funded by the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership. In line with the objectives of this partnership, and its purpose is to prepare a broader and more comprehensive research proposal that will be submitted to main research funding institutions at a second stage.

Scope of Research

Europe, Turkey and the Middle East are at the heart of a migration emergency which generates distress for the refugees and migrants, social grievances as well as inflammatory inter-state relations. With no end in sight to the Syrian Civil War, the situation may worsen in the near future. Turkey is the most important non-EU country which bears the impact of the Syrian migration and whose co-operation is essential for the management of this crisis for the EU.

In this context, the crisis of 2015 triggered intense negotiations between Turkey and the EU, leading eventually to the Joint Action Plan and EU financial assistance in the region of €6 billion to help Turkey care for Syrian refugees, in return for the latter to agree to the readmission of Syrians arriving in Greece and tighter border controls. At present, the EU is considering whether more financial aid is required in dealing with an increasingly difficult refugee problem. Germany is a key partner in all of this, while Brexit makes future financial aid from the part of the EU more difficult to commit.

Despite the deal, relations between Turkey and the EU have deteriorated especially after the EU’s General Affairs Council’s decision to, effectively, freeze the accession negotiations in June 2018 and the European Parliament’s decision to request the EU to suspend the accession negotiations in March 2019, both in response to increasing authoritarianism in Turkey.

It is in this context that this project has a great significance and promise in that it

  • seeks a better understanding of the current migration environment and its impact on the EU-Turkish relations;
  • looks carefully at reasons, motivations and actors that are driving Turkey’s migration policy;
  • examines the EU’s endangered leverage over Turkey;
  • analyses Turkey’s changing geopolitics in the region as well as relations with other external actors with a stake in Turkey’s migration diplomacy.


The Migration Diplomacy and Turkish-EU Relations Project has organized its kick off meeting on the 17-18 of January 2020 at DeZIM, Berlin which set the parameters of the debate.

After this initial meeting, the Project held two online brainstorming meetings. The first one took place on 30 June 2020 and focused on the domestic drivers of Turkey’s migration diplomacy. The speakers and participants were prompted with the following questions:

  • How do migration flows affect the Turkish foreign policy making?
  • What is Turkey’s migration diplomacy?
  • Who are the main actors in Turkey’s migration diplomacy?
  • What are the drivers in Turkish foreign policy making in relation to its migration diplomacy?
  • What are the connections between local forces and its migration diplomacy?
  • Shall we focus on only Syrian refugees in Turkey? How about Russian or Egyptian diaspora in Turkey?

The second online brainstorming meeting of the project was held on 5 November 2020. This time the focus was on the conceptual and historical perspectives on migration diplomacy. The questions presented were:

  • How do you conceptualize migration diplomacy?
  • How is migration diplomacy linked with foreign policy making?
  • What are the linkages between migration diplomacy and geopolitical considerations?
  • Where do you think there is need for more research in this field? Where do you think there is a gap in the literature on migration diplomacy and its history?

The next step is the third online brainstorming meeting which will be held on 11 February 2021. The topic of this meeting will be EU migration policies vis-a-vis Turkey and the discussion will concentrate around these following points:

  • What is the current state of EU-Turkey Deal?
  • Sustainability of the status quo
  • Which actors within the EU play a determinative role in the formulation of EU policy vis-à-vis Turkey on migration?
  • EU’s externalization of its migration management policies and concerns of securitization
  • Compatibility of EU policies with international human rights and refugee law

In the meantime, biweekly reports that cover related news, a timeline that includes the chronology of related events that took place since 2015, and an annotated bibliography are being prepared.