Opening this week's 10th international conference on ‘The EU, Turkey and the Kurds', GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer expressed the group's hopes for the recently launched peace process and urged the Turkish government to come up with concrete proposals for the extension and development of the Turkish constitutional reform package.


“This conference is a positive setting for discourse between all sides with the aim of bringing about lasting peace,” she said.


“Of course, pressure must be maintained so that both sides live up to their commitments. We need meaningful constitutional reform including changes to the electoral system. Another key issue will be language rights and the right to Kurdish education. EU institutions must be more active in making sure the peace process can be brought to a successful conclusion.”


GUE/NGL MEP Jürgen Klute, coordinator of the 'EU Kurdistan' parliamentary group, expressed his satisfaction to see that after many years of solidarity work for Kurdish rights, progress is visible: “2013 has been a year of historical change for Kurds. In the past, their identity and existence has been denied and international institutions have not shown particular interest in the oppression of Kurds in Turkey and the Middle East. It is important that the Turkish government meets the commitments it has made. Kurds don't want empty promises or superficial show events; they want to see political prisoners freed and a democratic constitution. There is no reason for Prime Minister Erdogan to wait for another round of elections before starting real democratic reform.”


“This problem doesn't only have consequences for Turkey and the Kurdish people,” GUE/NGL MEP Søren Søndergaard said. “This affects the whole region so the international community must become more involved in monitoring the progress of the peace process. Our support to the peace process is critical right now as is keeping up the pressure on the Turkish side to fulfil its commitments with concrete steps towards real democratic reform.”


Speakers included Kurdish and Turkish Elected representatives including Member of the Turkish Parliament and former Sakharov Prize laureate Leyla Zana; human rights experts; journalists; and MEPs from various political groups. The conference continues in the European Parliament this afternoon.


GUE/NGL Press:

David Lundy +32 470 85 05 09

Gay Kavanagh +32 473 84 23 20

Emily Macintosh +32 470 85 05 08

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