An accepted answer to an unrelated question includes the statement:

I myself am a Dutch conservative and personally find it ridiculous that some of our districts have voting ballots that are not in Dutch, to help immigrants who don’t speak Dutch to vote.

When questioning for details, I received the following reply in a comment:

But due to a special deal that was made years ago (due to EU meddling) Turkish people were exempt of our integration laws. This meant it wasn’t mandatory for them to learn Dutch … this caused a boom in Turkish people here who weren’t able to read or speak Dutch … so they were given Turkish ballots … the exemption (thank the gods) has been removed February this year … after 9 years.

As far as I understand the Wikipedia article Elections in the Netherlands, this seems to either be applicable only to local elections or there was some fast-track to attaining Dutch citizenship open only (?) to Turkish nationals, notably bypassing the language proficiency requirement; the comment’s phrasing suggests the latter. I tried various web searches to recover further details but was unsuccessful; possibly due to not knowing the specifics and ‘missing’ better search terms.

I am sceptic about the ‘EU meddling’ bit. I am German and Germany also has a sizeable Turkish minority. However while non-German EU nationals are permitted to vote in municipal elections, foreigners of a non-EU nationality typically are not (source in German). There is also no fast-track option in German nationality law that is open only or primarily to Turkish citizens. It would seem very weird for any EU decision to result in different outcomes in two of the founding Member States.

Nonetheless: which special provisions allowed Turkish-speaking people to vote in (which?) Dutch elections while not being proficient in Dutch? Which role did the EU have in creating that provision?

Please back your answers up with sources; English preferred but other languages are acceptable.

  • The EU meddling i mentioned was based on : rijksoverheid.nl/actueel/nieuws/2020/02/04/… . Official Dutch government site that mentioned it in the 4th paragraph that it was necessary to remove this for the Turkish people due to European laws and regulation. I assume these laws and regulations that came in to effect in 2011 were thanks tot he EU.
    – A.bakker
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 11:17
  • @A.bakker that article isn't clear to me, are they talking about Turkish workers who come to the Netherlands to work under a residence permit? Or are they referring to getting Dutch citizenship? If it's the first, doesn't that allow voting rights in municipal elections only?
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 11:21
  • @JJJ In the Netherlands you need a Dutch nationality and to be at the age of 18 or older. Through Naturalization, one can become a Dutch citizen by legally living more then 5 years in the country. So any Turkish person living here legally for 5 years (Belgium, Luxembourg's and Turks are allowed to bypass the integration laws) are allowed to naturalize themselves giving them voting rights in the Netherlands for the primarily elections. Why Turks are except form the rules I can't find, only referring to European laws and regulations that are not mentioned by name.
    – A.bakker
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 11:29
  • @A.bakker alright. I'm writing a partial answer why they can stay in the first place. I'm not sure about the 5 year rule (for lack of a better word). If you could write a partial answer about that, then I guess we have a complete answer.
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 11:30
  • @JJJ posted the exception rules
    – A.bakker
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 11:46

2 Answers 2


The Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service has a page on Turkish citizens and their family members. The page starts off introducing the Ankara agreement, formally known as the Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community.

Towards the end of the page, it talks about special residence permits (Speciale verblijfsvergunningen). It states (original in Dutch first, my translation below):

Arbeid in loondienst op grond van het Associatieverdrag tussen de Europese Unie en Turkije

U kunt een verblijfsvergunning arbeid in loondienst op grond van het Associatieverdrag krijgen als u aan de volgende voorwaarden voldoet:

  • U werkt al minimaal 1 jaar bij een Nederlandse werkgever.

  • U hebt de hele periode dat u bij deze werkgever werkte een geldige verblijfsvergunning gehad.

  • U blijft nog steeds werken bij dezelfde werkgever.

Wage labor based on the Association agreement between the European Union and Turkey

You are entitled to a wage labor residence permit based on the Association agreement between the European Union and Turkey if you meet the following criteria:

  • You have worked for at least a year for a Dutch employer.

  • You have had a valid residence permit for the entire period that have worked for that employer.

  • You remain employed with the same employer.

There is a lot more information on that page on making it easier for Turkish citizens to work in the Netherlands, which was of course the purpose of the association agreement. So what the section above establishes is that it's relatively easy for a Turkish citizen to reside in the Netherlands if they are legally employed.

Residency alone affords voting rights (link in Dutch) in municipal elections (or the island council equivalent) and the water board elections.

This answer doesn't apply to other Dutch elections, namely the national or provincial elections, because those require the Dutch nationality. For that, I refer to A.bakker's answer which shows how living in the Netherlands may allow one to take on the Dutch nationality. To answer your question: it may be possible for Turkish citizens to work in the Netherlands with relatively few bureaucratic hurdles due to the association agreement, Dutch law then allows them to get citizenship if they live there for 5 years.

I've reviewed the letter from the responsible minister as linked by A.bakker in a comment. The letter summarizes that in 2011, a Dutch court ruled that the inburgeringsplicht (in practice: learning Dutch and passing a test on Dutch customs) was in violation of the association agreement. Specifically, the letter states (in Dutch, no translation because of my summary in the previous sentence):

Tot 2011 gold een inburgeringsplicht voor Turkse nieuwkomers. Naar aanleiding van een uitspraak van de Centrale Raad van Beroep (CRvB) uit 2011 is deze inburgeringsplicht voor Turkse nieuwkomers vervallen. De CRvB heeft destijds geoordeeld dat de inburgeringsplicht voor Turkse staatsburgers in Nederland in strijd is met het associatierecht EU-Turkije.

The letter is a reply to a motion from MPs urging the minister to change the law. They have reviewed the precedent set by the ECJ that such tests and requiring language proficiency is allowed if it helps integration in the EU country. The specific quote from that letter (again in Dutch, but summarized in the previous sentence):

Naar aanleiding van de motie heb ik in samenwerking met de ministeries van J&V en BZ de door uw Kamer gevraagde verkenning verricht. Uit recente jurisprudentie van het HvJ EU volgt dat het geoorloofd is om de inburgeringsplicht voor Turkse nieuwkomers opnieuw in te voeren, indien wordt voldaan aan de door het HvJ EU geformuleerde voorwaarden, kort samengevat: het bevorderen van de integratie van nieuwkomers en maatwerk bij inburgering. Het standpunt van het kabinet is daarom dat het nieuwe inburgeringsstelsel gelet op deze jurisprudentie voldoende basis biedt om de inburgeringsplicht voor Turkse nieuwkomers opnieuw in te voeren. Het voornemen is de inburgeringsplicht vanaf de inwerkingtreding van de nieuwe Wet inburgering opnieuw in te voeren voor Turkse nieuwkomers. In deze brief wordt na een toelichting op de juridische analyse ingegaan op de gevolgen voor deze groep.

  • Heh, never knew the "waterschappen" called themselves "Water Boards". I wonder if they really know the connotations of that term ...
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 19:37

Partial answer on the request of the user JJJ In the Netherlands you can become a Dutch citizen and have voting rights through a process called naturalization (what pretty much means that a person has lived here so long he or she is practically a Dutch person already). But this does require the person to take a integration exam (Being able to speak our language, know about our culture /history /traditions /laws)

But there are exceptions to this rule, if you have lived 5+ years in the country and one of the following applies to you:

  • You are below 18 (This is so when parents pass the test their children auto-pass it so they won't be separated)
  • You have passed our legal retirement age (currently at 67), which is subject to change.
  • You have lived here for 8 years during your mandatory school years. (In the Netherlands every child between 5 and 16 is by law forced to go to school).
  • You Are Belgian or from Luxembourg.
  • You yourself or a family member have a Turkish nationality. (Family members include Husband/wife, children/grand children/ great grand children that are below the age of 21 and the applying person is the legal guardian off, your parents, grandparents or great grand parents who are dependent on the person applying (for example an elderly person who has dementia needing to be taken care of by his children))
  • U got a Dutch/Belgian/Suriname college degree (implying you passed the mandatory Dutch classes on a college level) or any other college degree in which you have proven to have completed college level Dutch

After a law change at the start of this year, the second to last one (The Turkish one) is getting removed by next year.

I found the reason and it's a weird Dutch one. Eu citizens don't have to integrate seeing they have free movement due to them being part of the EU with the Schengen-Treaty. But because the EU made an association agreement with Turkey the Centrale Raad van Beroep decided that this meant that people from Turkey did not have to do it either, but because they lack the EU citizen ship status they were not part of the Schengen-Treaty and therefor have to become Dutch citizens that is fast tracked through this law.

So due to an EU law we made an exception rule that nobody here wanted and now are getting rid off due to it having the issue that a sizeable chunk of Turkish immigrants refuse to learn Dutch and need help with things like voting.

https://ind.nl/Paginas/Inburgering-in-Nederland.aspx#Inburgeringsexamen_voor_naturalisatie https://ind.nl/Nederlanderschap/Paginas/Naturalisatie.aspx

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