NGOs, civil society experts and progressive political representatives from all sides in the EU, Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East gathered this week for the 11th International Conference on “the European Union, Turkey and the Kurds”.

This aim of the conference was to provide a positive setting for discourse between all sides on the key issues. One of the main issues up for discussion was the need for meaningful constitutional reform including the extension and development of the Turkish reform package. The conference heard calls for fundamental constitutional reforms in Turkey to ensure fair treatment for minorities, especially the Kurdish people.

“This week we have put the focus on human rights and the peace process within Turkey. The responsibilities of the Turkish government in terms of fighting against the Islamic State and supporting the rights of Kurds have also been elaborated,” GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer said following the conference.

“We're standing up for solidarity with the Kurdish people. The European Parliament should adopt a clear cut position and call for the removal of the PKK from the anti-terror list of the EU,” she explained.

Former GUE/NGL President Francis Wurtz said the Turkey/Kurds peace process was currently “between doubt and hope”. “Failure is not an option. The release of Abdullah Öcalan is necessary for talks to bring results and one cannot enter talks as a prisoner.”

Wurtz was presenting a report of the fact-finding mission of the International Peace and Reconciliation Initiative (IPRI) on the peace process relating to the Kurdish Question in Turkey alongside Judge Essa Moosa (South Africa), civil society activist Osman Kavala (Turkey) and Prof. Kariane Westrheim of the University of Bergen in Norway.

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