Turkey’s Public Diplomacy for Political goals in the Balkan Region

The political goals and the means of achieving them have largely changed from the practices that were common in the past, presently territorial integrity is respected by almost all of the countries present in the international system, now there is a little room for using hard power in achieving the political goals or agendas that was a common practice in the early decades of the previous century, now ‘soft power’ particularly public diplomacy is considered to be a more effective tool in achieving political goals than hard power.

Foreign policy, Cultural and Social values fall under the domain of public diplomacy, countries good at projecting these three components to the targeted foreign audiences can actually project their soft image to the world. The concept of soft power emerged in 1960’s, enabling countries to think in a different sphere for achieving their goals at regional level as well at global level.

Historically the region which is now called the ‘Balkan’ was a part of Ottoman Empire, during 1990’s the region has been unstable due to intra-state conflicts. In that time of crises Turkey was the first state to offer help and mediate among these states. Many of the Balkan states consider Turkey as their‘Big Brother’. Due to this trust Turkey have leverage over Balkan states in achieving their state objectives.

Turkey has launched various student exchange programs with the Balkan states, these programs allow students from Balkan to pursue their education in Turkey primarily in universities, other than this Turkish summer schools offers Turkish language programs to the students of these countries as well. Engaging Balkan youth with Turkish students allow Turkey to promote their values, norms, culture and language among Balkan states. In parallel, Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency commonly known as TIKA is focusing on improving the infrastructure of schools in various cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina where the basic necessities were lagging. Balkan states have a number of Turkish schools that are considered to be the best among all. Many universities in Balkan states offer Turkish as an elective courses, according to statistics nearly 200 students take Turkish as their elective course.

Ottoman sites in the Balkan states are under the protection of Turkish authorities, these authorities are responsible for the maintenance of Ottoman sites, cultural exchange programs are also common and people from Balkan states need no visa to visit Turkey that has increased the influx of tourist from Balkan to Turkey. These opportunities fascinates Muslim and Non-Muslims equally and has increased respect among the Non-Muslim communities in Balkan for Turkey. This use of soft power has helped Turkey in achieving their political goals in the Balkan region. These political goals can be classified as, Firstly; ‘domestic stability in Turkey’ many Turkish nationals have ethnic affiliations with various parts of Balkan and many who migrated from the Balkan are now Turkish citizens, any conflict with this region can cause instability at domestic level for Turkey as people will be sympathetic. Secondly; Turkey wants to maintain the position of a regional power and dominates the regional politics, getting into a conflict with either of the Balkan state can actually challenge the status quo of Turkey. Lastly; Turkey does not want regional instability as it would open a two front worrisome situation for Turkey because Turkey is already busy at her border with Syria, also regional instability can increase the influx of refugees in Turkey and can be horrendous for Turkey’s economy. All of these political concerns are being addressed and managed by successful practice of Public Diplomacy by Turkey in their targeted region ‘Balkan’.