memorandum by Mr Rigoni, rapporteur
1 Over the last centuries, different waves of migration
have led to the settlement of migrant diasporas in many European
countries. In recent decades, these diaspora communities have started
to play a more active role in the policies of both their countries
of origin and their countries of residence. The rapid increase in working
migration, the desire of retired migrants to return and to live
in their countries of origin, and the wish of many migrants to be
able to take a more active part in the political life of their host
countries as well as in their countries of origin, represent new
challenges in many policy sectors.
The Parliamentary Assembly has been dealing with diasporas
settled in Europe, mostly from a cultural and political perspective.
In 1999, it adopted Recommendation
on links between Europeans living abroad and their countries
of origin, and in 2009, Resolution
“Engaging European diasporas: the need for governmental
and intergovernmental responses”. In these documents, the Assembly
underlined the need for greater political participation of migrants,
which would enhance their capacity to promote and transfer democratic
values. The Assembly also called on its member States to elaborate
migration policies which promote an institutional role for diasporas.
3 In the present report, I am aiming at a deeper analysis of
existing national policies and international initiatives supportive
of diasporas’ involvement in political life.
1.1 Definition of diaspora
4 The classical definition of the diaspora as a scattered
group of people uprooted from their original land is no longer valid.
In the modern context, the diaspora is any group of migrants integrated
within the host society, mainly in Europe and the United States,
who choose to maintain a strong attachment to their original cultures
and countries. That attachment is not merely symbolic or cultural,
but has developed over the past decades to include strong economic
and political ties.
5 In this report, I would like to use the definition of diaspora
given by Gerard-Francois Dumont, which seems to me the most complete
one. He defines diaspora as “a community of individuals living together
on the same territory and having in common the conviction or belief
of belonging, themselves or their families, to another territory
with which they maintain regular relations”.
6 It is also important to make a distinction between a cultural
and political approach to diaspora. The former seeks to advance
the cultural rights of the diaspora groups regardless of their political
participation. The latter emphasises their political rights and
obligations. I will focus on this aspect.
7 For today’s migrant diasporas, getting involved in the life
of their community of origin is a choice. Immigrants can, in many
cases, acquire citizenship of their country of residence and no
longer have to be inevitably linked to a minority group.
8 These links with the country of origin are facilitated by
the globalisation process, which facilitates the circulation of
information, goods and services. It has become much easier for people
to travel abroad and to maintain ties with their families. This
phenomenon of “diasporisation” of migration opens new opportunities
for migrants and the countries to which they are attached.
9 However, I would be opposed to the policies which divide diasporas
into two categories, as is done in Serbia by the “Law on Diaspora
and Serbs in the Region”. Such an approach to the diaspora issue
could be counterproductive towards the integration of Serbs living
in neighbouring countries, as it could give rise to tensions. In
the case of second-generation diaspora, such policies could lead
to conflicts within families.
1.2 Diasporas as a
bridge between migrants, their countries of residence and their
countries of origin
10 Diasporas should neither be reduced to the country
of residence nor to the country of origin. Rather, the diaspora
is a third identity that exists in-between and feeds on the traffic,
real or imaginative, between the two countries. In many cases, the
diaspora establishes that traffic, creating a spontaneous medium
that brings countries together culturally, economically, and politically.
11 The diaspora is a cultural, economic, and political bridge
between the country of residence and the country of origin. Through
such channels as literature, the arts, media, and sport, the diaspora
brings together two worlds in a dynamic relationship.
12 Bilingualism of diaspora members should be seen as an asset
in the globalised world economy. It should therefore be promoted.
13 Diasporas have a longstanding tradition of economic support
towards people living in the country of origin. Remittances sent
by diaspora members often play a major role in certain national
economies of countries of origin and help them to be competitive
in international trade relations. But what is new is that increased
activity of diasporas may cause a questioning of existing relations
between States, and thus contribute to strengthening contacts between
countries of origin and residence.
14 Furthermore, as a potential force of reconciliation, the diaspora
may transform the tensions of the past into future opportunities
for co-operation between the country of residence and the country
of origin. Its cultural specificities are proven to enrich, rather
than undermine, the progress of modern societies.
1.3 The role of diasporas
in democratic change
15 Diasporas also contribute to the shattering of pre-existing
negative stereotypes held in either the origin or destination countries.
In fact, the diaspora is a reconciling force which helps us overcome
the political traumas of the past. In the context of Maghreb countries,
the diaspora transformed people’s image of Europe from French or
Spanish colonial power into that of a modern and democratic Europe
full of opportunities for individual success and economic prosperity.
16 Those diaspora communities which live in democratic countries
are usually eager to promote in their countries of origin the values
they consider positive in their country of residence. More generally,
migrants in their majority are carriers of universal values, creating
a plural discourse which promotes peace and dialogue between diverse
civilisations and traditions.
17 In the last two decades, diasporas became one of the driving
forces in bringing democratic experience to their countries of origin.
Diaspora organisations were very active in establishing and developing
civil society in many central and eastern European countries. They
made a big contribution to the nation-building process. In Latvia,
Lithuania and Georgia, to take a few examples, the representatives
of returned diasporas actively participated in the political leadership
of these countries.
18 Members of diaspora visiting their countries of origin expect
the same civil treatment they enjoy in their countries of residence:
transparency, accountability, gender equality, equal opportunity,
and a fair justice system. Their exposure to democratic values turns
them into advocates for democracy and human rights. Their political
and social participation in their communities of origin also leads
them to fight discrimination and economic disparities.
2 The right
to vote for diaspora members
19 The political participation of diasporas remains
a major issue for its members. Generally speaking, the diaspora
groups should be allowed to participate in any electoral process
that affects their daily lives.
20 A distinction needs to be made between those members of the
diaspora who, while being legal migrants, do not hold citizenship
of the host country, and those who have double citizenship of the
host country and the country of origin. While citizens can obviously
vote in a host country, not all legal migrants have this right.
Allowing citizens abroad to vote in their country of origin
is important for two reasons. First, we cannot forget that diasporas
participate actively in the well-being of people still living in
the country of origin. The Moroccan diaspora, for example, is present
in more than 100 countries. It is closely tied to its country of
origin and has developed a robust financial bridge between countries
of residence and Morocco (according to certain estimates, Moroccan
remittances are among the most important in the world).Note
Secondly, enabling citizens
to vote from abroad is not only a matter of equality between resident
citizens and non-resident citizens, but also between nationals living
abroad in general. Indeed, wealthy non-resident citizens can benefit
from formal and informal channels to bring their concerns to the
political scene, and therefore have an impact on the decision-making
process, whereas less wealthy citizens living abroad are deprived
of their only way to become involved in politics in their country
2.1 Diasporas voting
in the countries of origin
22 Despite the fact that the extension of voting rights
in the country of origin to diasporas should logically stem from
the citizenship status of individuals living abroad, allowing external
voting remains the prerogative of each State.
23 Most of the Council of Europe member States allow their citizens
to exercise their voting rights from outside the territory of their
country of origin.
24 Two issues are at stake when it comes to the question of external
voting: the right to vote and to stand for election in different
types of elections, and the modalities of voting from abroad (see
25 The right to vote and to be elected is essential in ensuring
democratic participation of diaspora members. Most European countries
allow for the participation of their citizens in external voting,
but some countries impose restrictions related to the length of
stay abroad or activity-related. However, there are countries such as
Ireland, where only people carrying out official missions of a diplomatic
or military nature can vote abroad. In some other countries, there
are restrictions with regard to the length of stay abroad; beyond
the limit, citizens lose their voting rights. In Germany, it is
25 years and in the United Kingdom 15 years.
26 In practice, participation in external voting can be hindered
by bureaucratic and legal requirements related to the registration
of voters or the voting procedure. Thus, the registration of voters
is often done by diplomatic missions, which might cover very big
regions of potential voters. Due to financial and logistical problems
voters may not always be able to travel to diplomatic missions situated
in other cities. Such difficulties could be easily overcome by the
wider introduction of postal and electronic registration and voting.
27 The European States use four main voting forms: in-person,
postal, proxy and electronic vote (e-voting). However, a majority
of countries are making use of in-person voting (Albania, Bulgaria,
Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland,
Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia,
“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Ukraine), meaning that
citizens cast their vote at polling stations, which are generally
located in embassies. The second most common form is postal voting.
It is practiced in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein,
Luxembourg, the Slovak Republic and Spain. Proxy voting is used
in the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Only three countries
of the Council of Europe use e-voting (Estonia, France and Switzerland).
Several countries allow for two forms of voting: in-person and postal
voting (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway,
Portugal, and Slovenia); postal and proxy voting (the Netherlands
and the United Kingdom); or more than two forms (Belgium, Estonia,
France, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland). Finally, Albania, Andorra,
Armenia, Greece, Malta and San Marino still do not allow external
voting. The choice of a form of voting is crucial: it is proven
that in-person voting will favour citizens living in capital cities,
and proxy voting (including postal and e-voting) will be avoided
by people abroad as there is no real guarantee of the respect of
their will. Direct voting (including postal and e-voting) is the
most effective way to ensure fair political participation for non-resident
28 The types of elections in which non-resident citizens are
entitled to vote also differ widely among countries. For example,
Germany allows its non-resident citizens to vote in legislative
elections only, whereas French citizens abroad may vote in presidential
and legislative elections as well as in referendums.
Denmark, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta do not allow their citizens
to take part in national or regional elections once they leave their
recent Eurobarometer survey on electoral rights has shown that almost
two thirds of Europeans would not consider such legislative provisions
To tackle this problem,
the European Commission issued guidance to the member States which
still practise disenfranchisement. It invites the relevant member
States to enable their citizens living abroad to retain their right
to vote in national elections if they show an interest in the political
life of their country, for example by applying to remain on the
Electronic means are playing an increasing role in extending
democracy and in building democratic bridges between States. In
2004, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted Recommendation
Rec(2004)11 defining general standards for electronic voting with
a view to preventing any type of fraud, and in 2007, the Assembly
adopted Resolution 1591
on distance voting, which calls on member States to
introduce external voting.
31 The introduction of e-voting as additional form of casting
votes can significantly facilitate participation of diasporas in
elections. The practice of remote e-voting by Estonian voters abroad
has shown that it reduces transaction costs and enhances efficiency
in the voting process, but has not really increased voter participation. The
governments of the Council of Europe member States could address
the issue of e-voting, as it can make external voting cheaper and
32 Some European countries offer the possibility to their diaspora
members to have their interests represented in the national parliament.
Since 1948, France has given its diaspora members the right to elect 12
senators. And since 2012, the diaspora has also been represented
in the National Assembly. In my country, the members of the Italian
diaspora have the possibility to elect by mail 12 representatives
in the national parliament and 6 senators to represent their interests.
The positive practice of Croatia, France, Italy, Portugal and Romania
should be followed by other European States.
2.2 Diaspora voting
in the countries of residence
33 Among Council of Europe member States, the situation
regarding the right of foreigners to vote is diverse. For legislative
and presidential elections, almost without exception, it is only
citizens that can vote. At the local level, the situation is different
and many countries give the right to vote to foreigners legally
residing on their territory after a certain period, for example
five years. Indeed, the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Participation
of Foreigners in Public Life at Local level (ETS No. 144) includes
this as one of its standards. But some countries are still reluctant
to allow foreigners to vote.
34 In the European Union, all European Union citizens have the
right to vote and to stand as candidates in local and European elections
in their country of residence on the same basis as nationals. However,
13 European Union countries do not extend this right to national
or regional elections.
Disparities are still significant between the member States,
in particular at local level. France, for instance, does not allow
non-European Union foreigners to vote, even at local level. The
debate over the issue of voting rights for foreigners has lasted
for 30 years and is still profoundly divisive for French society.Note
Germany, Ireland and Sweden, non-European Union citizens may vote
at the local level.Note
Moreover, the right of foreigners to vote in national or local
elections also involves the issue of States’ bilateral relations,
since many countries allow only non-EU foreigners to vote if they
are coming from a country where their own citizens are allowed to
vote; for instance, Portugal allows non-European Union citizens
to vote in the local elections only on a reciprocal basis.Note
37 The classification of migrants according to their origins
should not be relevant when it comes to the question of voting rights
for foreigners. Unfortunately, I must stress that it remains often
the only criterion on which the right to vote for foreigners is
38 Most countries in the world, including the European Union,
still deprive foreigners of the right to vote despite their advanced
policies of integration. Unless the migrants are given the right
to vote, at least in local elections, any process of integration
will remain incomplete.
39 Granting voting rights to migrants in the country of residence
will protect them to a certain extent against the racial stereotypes
to which they may be subjected in political campaigns. As a political
group, the migrant diasporas will be attractive to the standing
political parties instead of being used as scapegoats to lure racist and
40 The implementation of the right to vote and to stand for election
for diasporas in the countries of residence enables diaspora members
to take part in decision-making process on issues related to their
day-to-day life and to make them responsible members of society.
2.3 Barriers to diaspora
involvement in voting
41 There are several barriers to diaspora involvement:
they face numerous obstacles to political participation in both
their country of origin and their country of residence.
42 Even if the countries of origin enable their citizens abroad
to vote, legal provisions to allow external voting to take place
are often lacking. The means available (in-person, postal, proxy)
do not guarantee equal access to ballots for resident citizens and
non-resident citizens, and thus lead to abstentionism, which in
turn justifies positions against the extension of external voting.
Moreover, the number of elections in which non-resident citizens
can vote is limited.
43 For the countries with a considerable number of citizens living
abroad (for example Armenia, Russia, Turkey), the participation
of diasporas in national elections could be crucial for the results
of the election. This may partly explain the reluctance of these
countries to introduce external voting into their legislation.
Diaspora voting cannot be considered without taking into account
the financial and organisational aspects of the electoral process.
It needs serious financial and human resources investments and is
often linked to logistical difficulties. Moreover, for the countries
which face problems in the organisation of elections on their territory,
it might be even more difficult to ensure a secure electoral process
abroad, especially in the countries with important diaspora representation.Note
45 The lack of democratic institutions in the country of origin
is the biggest obstacle to the diaspora’s involvement in politics.
46 Xenophobia is another common reason why members of diaspora
communities prefer to abandon the political field and view it as
a source of trouble rather than of social empowerment.
47 Political parties usually do not offer special programmes
to attract voters and candidates among diaspora communities.
48 All these problems have to be taken into consideration in
order to improve political participation for migrant diasporas.
2.4 Case studies of
49 The right of the Serbian diaspora to participate
in national elections was instituted in 2004. Since then, three
elections have taken place. Diaspora members can vote in the diplomatic
missions or in Serbia.
50 During the last elections, out of four million Serbian people
living abroad, only 6 800 people registered to vote. This low turnout
of the diaspora in the elections can be explained by political and
procedural reasons. The policies of previous Serbian authorities
which had been hostile to the diaspora – as it represented political opposition
– discouraged its involvement in the political life of Serbia. Serbs
living in neighbouring countries were the target of attempts at
instrumentalisation by politicians in Serbia and were often marginalised
in the countries where they live.
51 As regards the procedural reasons, the main problems were
an insufficient number of polling stations, the requirement for
voters to register for the voting 20 days before the elections,
and the vote in person at the voting station, which in practice
made people travel twice to the polling station, once for the registration
and again for the vote itself. As a result, out of 6 800 registered
diaspora voters only 4 826 had voted.
52 I think that these political and procedural reasons, which
hampered the Serbian diaspora’s active participation in the elections,
need thorough analysis by the Serbian authorities. They may wish
to intensify their work on establishing much closer communications
with the Serbian diaspora, involve it in the preparation of elections
and simplify voting procedures.
53 As regards the political participation of the diaspora in
Serbia itself, I welcome the intention of the Serbian Parliament
to reserve seats in the parliament for the representatives of minorities.
54 On 10 August 2014, Turkey
held its presidential election, and for the first time the Turkish
diaspora was allowed to register to vote abroad. In Europe, there
are around four million Turkish citizens, of which three million
live in Germany. The Netherlands, France, Belgium and Austria also
have a large number of Turkish migrants. During previous elections,
the Turkish diaspora was only permitted to vote at the border controls
of Turkey, but after the adoption in 2012 of the amendment to the
law on elections, 103 polling stations were opened in 54 countries.
Taking into account over 52 million eligible voters in Turkey, the
diaspora vote matters for political parties since it makes up some
5% of the total.
55 The main concern that Turkey had in the preparation of the
election was a certain resistance of the countries of residence
to co-operate in the organisation of the voting process. This concerned
first of all Germany, where due to a great number of voters, the
voting process had to take place over several days and required
important human and financial resources.
The results of the presidential election have shown that out
of almost 2.8 million members of the Turkish diaspora eligible for
voting, only 232 000 actually voted. The main reasons for the low
turnout were procedural and logistical problems.Note
57 Some voters had to travel long distances to reach the voting
centres. In Germany, which, as mentioned, hosts nearly three million
Turks, there were only seven polling stations and voters were sometimes
forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to cast their vote.
58 Furthermore, Turkish citizens were required to get an appointment
prior to the election period from embassies in their countries of
residence, so as to register as voters. However, some of them did
not even know about it. The appointment system was a failure, as
many people returned without having registered or cast their vote,
as they were late and were turned away.
59 Electoral legislation gave the Election Council the authority
to oblige voters to make appointments, but made exceptions where
the number was too high to manage. Many people were not allowed
to vote if they missed their appointment time. The board had earlier
rejected the ruling AK Party's appeal for appointment-free dates
In general, the organisation of diaspora voting was very expensive.
The costs involved for one vote cast overseas was 38 times higher
than a single vote in Turkey itself due to the low turnout. A vote
abroad cost the State on average almost US$140, while the cost in
Turkey was less than US$4. Turkey had allocated more than US$30
million for diaspora voting.Note
61 To my mind, although voting in person is the most common way
for diaspora participation, proxy and postal voting are other methods
which enable overseas citizens to cast their votes, and are used
by more than 60 countries. Voting via the Internet is also used
in some countries. To facilitate the voting process, Turkey could
consider the introduction of these forms of diaspora voting in the
3 National policies
promoting diaspora involvement in political life
3.1 Governmental policies
and strategies in the countries of origin
3.1.1 Dual citizenship
62 There are several reasons why countries of origin
are interested in defining governmental policies and strategies
with regard to diasporas. Above all, in a time of transnational
population movement, it is crucial to keep a link with migrant communities,
especially if they can exercise their right to vote.
63 One of the ways to keep diaspora members active in their country
of origin is to allow them the possibility of dual citizenship.
More and more countries are following this practice.
64 At the same time, some countries of origin are very reticent
to follow this practice, in part because they fear how overseas
votes could significantly influence election results.
65 The introduction of dual citizenship in Morocco, for example,
allows migrants to be influential in the social, cultural and political
transformation of Moroccan society. In the 1970s and 80s, migrants
became so inspired by the European values of justice, transparency
and freedom that they then appropriated these values as universal,
using them to develop the remote and rural areas of Morocco where
the State was not active. The Moroccan diaspora furthermore acts
as a pressure group, which challenges both society and the State
to modernise institutional and cultural practices, reform domestic
laws, such as gender relations, reduce the economic gaps between
the city and the country, and promote education among women and
66 In Serbia, dual citizenship is a very positive practice, in
particular for the Serbs in the region. Their children can go to
universities in Serbia and they can travel around the world with
a Serbian passport. The national minorities in Serbia are also allowed
dual citizenship which allows them to maintain better contacts with
their country of origin.
67 Another way of involving diasporas is to legalise their status.
Having an important number of migrants (around six million), Turkey
introduced a special ID “Blue Card” system for its diaspora members
from the countries where dual citizenship is not permitted or when
a person had renounced their Turkish citizenship. It serves as a
residence and work permit in Turkey and allows them to buy a property.
68 Having said that, I would like to warn against the manipulation
by some States of the status of dual citizenship for their own political
interests. Dual citizenship status should not be used for promoting expansionist
policies and violating the sovereignty of States.
3.1.2 Governmental institutions
69 To respond to the needs of diaspora, some countries
of origin also adopt governmental policies and create special institutions
in charge of relations with diasporas (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation and Turkey). Those
policies are aimed at engaging the diaspora abroad and maintaining
regular contacts with diaspora communities.
70 For the implementation of such policies, some countries create
special governmental institutions and in some cases even appoint
senior ministers (Armenia, Georgia, Serbia and Turkey) or junior
ministers (France and Portugal) in charge of diaspora policies.
There are also intergovernmental and parliamentary committees on
diasporas which co-ordinate the work on diaspora involvement at
executive and legislative levels.
71 Armenia has one of the largest diaspora communities (7,5
million people, while the population living in Armenia is only
2,5 million). The Armenian diaspora is spread across more than 100
countries around the world, with an established model system of
governmental policy towards diaspora. It is co-ordinated by the Ministry
of the Diaspora and includes a number of mechanisms to strengthen
collaboration with the diaspora. Among them is the “Hayastan” All-Armenian
Fund, headed by the President of the Republic of Armenia, which co-ordinates
the financial assistance of the diaspora to Armenia. Once every
three years, the ministry organises the Armenia-Diaspora Conferences
to discuss issues of national concern, as well as cultural festivals and
Pan-Armenian athletic games.
72 Diplomatic representation abroad also plays an important role
in maintaining relations with diaspora representatives. Some European
countries have introduced a position of diaspora counsellor in their embassies
and consular departments. They provide legal assistance and facilitate
the establishment of business and cultural contacts with their countries.
In recent years, with increased migration movements, many migrants
have addressed issues related to their status, administrative procedures,
and welfare support to their diplomatic representatives. However,
the embassies and consulates do not always have qualified staff
to respond to these demands. The countries of origin should therefore
strengthen their diplomatic representations with staff trained to
provide assistance to diaspora members.
73 The countries of origin should pay special attention to diaspora
engagement policies. In the absence of such programmes and policies
in the country of origin, second- and third-generation migrants
may feel as alienated as their parents or grandparents were in Europe
in the 1960s and 70s. Engagement difficulties deprive them of serving
their country of origin although their qualifications and professional
experience are needed.
3.1.3 Involvement of
74 No governmental policy in support of diasporas can
be successful without direct involvement of the diaspora community
in the policy-planning process. Diaspora representatives can be
involved in an individual capacity as experts, but such involvement
can also take the form of diaspora councils. Several European countries
have established such consultative bodies involving the elected
representatives of different diaspora communities.
75 The countries of origin are also interested in developing
diaspora lobbying abroad to support their political agenda. With
this aim, they support diaspora organisations, encourage diaspora
voting rights in the host country and organise diaspora forums.
In 2011, the Parliament of Malta adopted a law establishing
the Council for Maltese People Living Abroad. The recommendations
of this council are implemented by the executive institution.Note
Estonia has also a Council of
Expatriates. In this regard, Morocco also provides an interesting
example. In 1990, under the patronage of King Hassan II, the Foundation
for Moroccans Living Abroad was created to promote economic and
cultural co-operation with the diaspora and to support them. This
Foundation, in co-operation with the International Organization
for Migration (IOM) established an Observatory of the Moroccan Community
Living Abroad (EOMC), which offers an information system for the
government on migration management issues.
77 The “Law on Diaspora and Serbs in the Region”, adopted in
Serbia in 2009, established a Diaspora Assembly, which comprises
45 delegated members from different diaspora communities. This Assembly
is the highest organ of the diaspora and its main task is to identify
problems of the diaspora and to develop strategies to solve them.
It also establishes and appoints representatives to different diaspora
councils: the Economic Council; the Status Council; and the Council
for Culture, Education, Science and Sports.
78 The organisation of diaspora forums and conventions is another
important way of reaching diasporas. Armenia, Malta, Ukraine, and
the Russian Federation organise such forums on a regular basis.
In 2013, Ireland hosted the inaugural European version of the Global
Diaspora Forum in Dún Laoghaire (Dublin).
Diaspora members can also exercise their political influence
through financial support to some political forces. This was the
case in 1990 in Croatia, when the Croatian diaspora donated US$4
million to support the electoral campaign of Franjo Tudjman. In
return, they received 12 of the 120 seats in the Croatian Parliament.Note
my view, such steps can become highly problematic and should be
avoided in a democratic society, where money should not influence
Some European countries have highlighted in their policies
their interest in the return of highly skilled diaspora members.
The Russian Federation, for example, adopted the State Programme
to assist Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots Living Abroad to
the Russian Federation. The aim of this programme is not only to
attract skilled professionals, but also to improve the national
81 Since 2011, a lot of progress has been made by the Serbian
Ministry of Education in developing and implementing a special programme
for primary schooling in the Serbian language in countries abroad.
Since then, 3 685 pupils all over the world have participated in
this programme. There is also a programme for diaspora students
to enrol in Serbian universities: 2% of seats in all universities
are reserved free of charge for diaspora students. A separate scholarship
was established by “Serbia for Serbs in the Region”, providing scholarships
for young people belonging to the Serbian ethnic communities in
the countries of the region. A total of 40 scholarships were allocated
in the academic year 2012/13.
82 It is clear that the efficiency of governmental policies on
diaspora involvement in the political life of countries of origin
depends on the availability of executive bodies and financial resources
for their implementation. Diasporas should be actively involved
in the policy-planning process to ensure that their concerns are
included in State policy. Their intellectual and financial capacity
could be of benefit for the implementation of certain governmental
programmes. Countries of origin could also promote diaspora involvement,
providing them with double nationality or special legal status and
facilitating their free movement and economic activity.
3.2 Responses in the
countries of residence
83 As a general rule, countries of residence do not
develop specific policies regarding diaspora communities. They rather
consider diaspora members as migrants and include them in social
inclusion or migrant integration policies.
84 However, countries which have achieved success in their migrant
integration policies realise that diaspora involvement can be profitable
for both countries of origin and residence. Countries such as Luxembourg,
Switzerland, Portugal and Italy consider diasporas as partners in
the promotion of co-operation with the countries of origin.
My country, Italy, has even created an office of the Minister
for Integration which works directly with different diaspora associations.
Italy considers diaspora organisations as partners in the migrant
integration process. On the other hand, Turkey refers to integration
policy as “an active participation of diaspora in the academic,
social, cultural, economic and financial life of the country they
86 Diaspora communities can also be involved with their countries
of residence in the promotion of project development for their respective
countries of origin. Countries such as France, Germany, the United
Kingdom and Switzerland, for example, involve diaspora communities
with business structures working on development projects.
Some countries of origin develop a partnership with countries
of residence to promote better worker mobility and to encourage
the return of skilled workers (Portugal/Ukraine, Austria/Bosnia
and Herzegovina). Development agencies of countries of residence
work very closely with diaspora associations on different projects
in their home countries. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
has launched several projects with different countries on the potential
of diasporas’ contribution to the development of the countries of
The development agencies of Denmark, Sweden,
Finland and Norway support activities of diasporas in specific professional
sectors or regions.Note
88 In my view, countries of residence will benefit if they involve
diasporas in their migrant integration policies and utilise their
contacts with their countries of origin.
3.3 Activities of diaspora
89 Diaspora representatives organise themselves in various
forms, including: religious communities; schools; migrants associations;
charitable foundations; cultural clubs; but also, branches of political
parties, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), virtual networks
and investment groups.
Very often, the organisations of migrants who fled from their
country because of the political regime remain hostile towards the
governments of their countries of origin, even after political changes
have taken place.Note
91 The role of diaspora organisations is becoming increasingly
important in the political life of some countries of origin and
residence. Their activities aimed at helping their countries of
origin in economic and democratic development help protect their
rights as a minority group in the country of residence and express their
cultural identity. They also contribute to the development of bilateral
relations between the countries of origin and destination. If the
situation in their country of origin is still hostile, the diaspora
organisations serve as an international sounding board to voice
their concerns about human rights and political freedoms.
With regard to the involvement of diaspora organisations in
political participation in their countries of origin and residence,
their main lobbying efforts are directed at the issues of citizenship,
migration status and voting rights. They also express their concerns
regarding issues of human rights, good governance and democratic
93 Diaspora organisations also act as supporters and promoters
of protest movements in their countries of origin, which are often
not welcome there. In December 2013, Ukrainian diaspora organisations
all over the world supported peaceful demonstrations in Ukraine
for a partnership with the European Union and democratic values.
94 This year, during the floods in May 2014 in Serbia, we witnessed
an active response from the Serbian diaspora to the appeal of the
Serbian Government for help to provide aid for the reconstruction
of affected regions. Serbian diaspora representatives sent money,
food, clothes, shoes and medicine to affected areas in Serbia from
all over the world. According to the Ministry of Finance, almost
€700 000 was collected through PayPal accounts and more than €27
million has been donated.
95 The development of new communication technologies offers new
possibilities for connections between different diaspora organisations.
Such organisations actively use e-communication to promote their
political views and distribute information on their activities.
96 In some diaspora communities, there is still a lack of co-operation
between “old” diaspora organisations and newly arrived migrants
organisations. I believe that this co-operation could be mutually
beneficial. Well established diaspora groups could help migrants
in their integration into the host society, and newly arrived migrants
or refugees could share their knowledge of political and cultural
developments in the country of origin.
97 My conclusion is that diaspora organisations are very diverse
and have the ability to play many roles, but with the assistance
of new technologies they are becoming more and more politically
influential, both in their home countries and in host societies.
3.4 Role of local authorities
in diaspora involvement
98 Local authorities are the first to be responsible
for the involvement in local political life of diaspora representatives
who are not citizens of the host country.
99 In 1992, the Council of Europe adopted the above-mentioned
Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at
Local Level. This convention not only suggests giving foreign residents
the right to vote and stand in local authority elections after five
years of lawful and habitual residency preceding the election, but
also proposes a series of other measures, including the setting
up of consultative bodies which can be used by local authorities
to encourage the participation of foreigners in local governance
and decision making.
100 So far only eight countries have ratified this convention. I
would like to call on all member States of the Council of Europe
who have not yet done so to sign and ratify it.
101 The integration of migrant diaspora members in the host countries
is impossible without their democratic involvement in elections,
at least at the local level. Unfortunately, few European States
give priority to this issue. In my opinion, the right to vote at
local level is a key precondition of migrant diaspora participation
in the political life of the host country.
102 I also consider it important that local authorities in regions
with settled diasporas develop strategies and propose forms of co-operation
to engage with diasporas, for their mutual benefit.
initiatives regarding migrant diaspora
103 Several international initiatives have been developed
by international organisations, such as the IOM, the Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European
Union with the aim of formulating policy recommendations on the
involvement of diaspora in political and economic life.
Within the framework of the International Dialogue on Migration,
the IOM organised a Diaspora Ministerial Conference in June 2013,
involving around 500 participants including more than 55 ministers.
In response to fast-growing interest of governments in diaspora
issues, this conference took stock of various governmental diaspora
policies, programmes, and initiatives, and identified and shared
the best and most innovative practices in relation to diasporas.
The IOM also implemented several External Voting Programmes in different
countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo*.Note
As a result of the joint initiative between the OECD and the
French Development Agency statistical research on diasporas was
published in 2012.Note
This research contains information from
140 countries on migrant populations and diaspora sizes and can
be used by policy makers to develop public policy on involvement
of diasporas in development.
106 The European Parliament is also interested in diaspora-related
policies and organised a seminar in September 2012 on “Diaspora:
the Case for an EU Policy”. As a conclusion of this seminar, it
was recommended that other European Union institutions be engaged
on diaspora as a theme of policy, particularly the European Commission.
107 At the level of the European Commission, diaspora-related
issues are mainstreamed into the migration and development dialogues
with partner countries in the context of the Prague process, the
EU-Africa Migration, Mobility and Employment Partnership, the EU-ACP
(African, Caribbean and Pacific countries) dialogue and the EU-LAC
(Latin American Countries) migration dialogue.
108 It is my opinion, however, that there is a lack of a parliamentary
dimension in these initiatives. Parliamentarians have an important
role to play in shaping the policies in relation to diasporas in
their countries. The Parliamentary Assembly could act as a platform
for developing the dialogue between the parliamentarians who are
interested in diaspora-related issues. The Assembly could initiate
the creation of a parliamentary network on diaspora policies. I
am convinced that it would provide added value to the Inter-Ministerial
Dialogue on Diaspora launched by the IOM in June 2013. This network
could be developed in close collaboration with the IOM and the European
Union, using their expertise and resources for the development of
broad consultations and sharing experiences between parliamentarians,
experts and the diaspora community.
109 The cultural and political rights of the diaspora groups must
be recognised and protected by international organisations such
as the United Nations, UNESCO and the IOM.
110 Diasporas have started to play a more prominent role
in politics today. The contributions of diasporas in the development
of their countries of origin, as well as their active participation
in the promotion of an intercultural society in the receiving countries,
require the development of adequate governmental strategies and
111 The diasporas’ numerous accomplishments must be seen as success
stories of double integration. Success stories which encourage both
the countries of origin and destination to view migration not as
a problem, but as a common ground, offering tremendous opportunities
for dialogue between different countries and cultures.
112 Members of the diaspora need to get organised as distinct
communities with specific problems and demands if they want to exert
pressure on the political parties in their countries of residence
113 Diaspora members should not only seek voting rights but also
opportunities to present their own candidates in local, regional
and parliamentary elections.
114 The diaspora’s political demands are well received at home
because they are considered “native demands” rather than intrusions
from the outside. The governments of the member States of the Council
of Europe can work with diaspora associations as partners for democracy
and human rights.
115 While most of the world’s constitutions have been written
in the context of native citizenship, loyalty and sovereignty, amendments
have to be made to take into account the increasing number of diaspora
citizens living across borders and their impact on the promotion
of the various social, cultural and political values which characterise
the contemporary world.
116 Governments have to play a key role in engaging diasporas
in decision-making policies, developing collaboration between governmental
institutions and formulating recommendations on drafting diaspora-oriented
programmes to ensure economic, social and cultural development.
117 The media has a major role to play in the promotion of political
and cultural diversity both within and across nations. To counter
the stereotypes of migrants as victims or criminals, television,
newspapers, cinema and electronic media should give them serious
opportunities to show themselves as international success stories,
an economic and intellectual potential which benefits both their
country of residence and their country of origin.
118 In addition to the media, school remains one of the basic
institutions for promoting pluralism and diversity at an early age.
Students at primary, secondary or graduate levels must be made aware
of the scientific, literary and political achievements of diasporas