The EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) held its 9th International Conference last week In Brussels, with politicians, academics, NGO workers and political activists from Kurdistan, Europe and across the world gathering for two days of discussion. The final resolution, which is reproduced below in full, reflected the main focus of the conference this year by calling for direct negotiations to resume between the Turkish government and the PKK. This echoes the call made made Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Despond Tutu at the recent launch of the International Peace Initiative (IPI). A special resolution was also passed calling for the release of Kurdish politician Adem Uzun from French custody, which is also below.

Prominent MP and Rafto Prize Laureate Ms Leyla Zana opened the conference, and a copy of her speech in English is opening speech (pdf). Also available is Dutch academic Joost Jongerden’s conference paper entitled Rethinking Politics and Democracy in the Middle East (pdf).


The 9th Annual EUTCC International Conference met on 5-6 December 2012 at the European Parliament in Brussels. All of the presentations elaborated on the findings of the European Commission’s most recent (2012) Progress Report on Turkey’s EU accession process that unfortunately: “The Kurdish issue and . . . the 2009 democratic opening aimed at addressing amongst others the Kurdish issue were not followed through. . . .  Overall, there was no progress towards a solution as regards the Kurdish issue.”

Leyla Zana and Karianne Westrheim
Leyla Zana and Karianne Westrheim

What is going on in Turkey today appears to be an attempt to stifle Kurdish voices and impose on the Kurds a unilateral solution to fundamental issues of security and the future of the country. The KCK arrests and trials have been intensified. There has been a recent escalation in violence, arrests, oppression of the political sphere and media, violations of freedom of thought and the overall lack of progress in the EU accession process. The current threat to lift the parliamentary immunities of BDP MPs and the failure to implicate those responsible for the Roboski massacre of 34 civilians on 28 December 2011 are specific examples of this situation.

The current Turkish debate over whether to institute a presidential system of government or maintain a parliamentary system ignores the basic issue, namely writing a new democratic and civilian constitution to replace the authoritarian statist one imposed by the military in the eighties. The 9th EUTCC Conference notes that the Constitutional Reconciliation Committee in Turkey should have successfully finished its work in drawing up such a democratic and civilian constitution by the end of 2012.

Furthermore, the Conference notes that the Turkish government’s approach to the civil war in Syria seeks to reduce the recent achievements of its local Kurdish population and is thus shaped around an anti-Kurdish axis. Instead, Turkey and all other involved should encourage a non-violent dialogue among all the political, religious, ethnic, and other groups in Syria with the view of helping to create a democratic and pluralist state that is inclusive of all its many different peoples.

Most importantly, however, the 9th EUTCC Conference notes that still lacking is the willingness to negotiate genuinely with the Kurds and continue the credible talks with Mr. Abdullah Öcalan. In other words, until the Turkish government truly accepts the PKK as a negotiating partner—along the lines of what Britain successfully did with Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the African National Congress and South Africa, and recently FARC and Colombia—it is doubtful whether a political solution to this continuing crisis can be reached.

Mr. Öcalan’s recent 16 months of solitary confinement and the illegal arrest of his attorneys are a clear violation of international law. This solitary confinement is self-defeating for Turkey because it prevents Mr. Öcalan from being able to prepare the basis for peace and reconciliation with the Turkish state. The EUTCC Conference further takes note that the recent hunger strike by more than 684 imprisoned non-violent Kurdish dissidents (the so-called KCK arrests and trials) was only successfully concluded when the Turkish government finally turned to negotiating with Mr. Abdullah Öcalan.

The EUTCC calls for the immediate resumption, without preconditions, of the Oslo Process of direct talks between Turkey and the PKK with the intention of instituting Turkey’s full respect for the fundamental democratic rights of all its citizens. The Conference warmly endorses the recent call by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for the Resumption of Dialogue between the Turkish Government and the PKK leader Mr. Abdullah Öcalan.

Specifically we call for civic rather than ethnic Turkish citizenship, mother-tongue education in the schools and defense in the courts, and meaningful decentralization, among other necessary reforms, that as already noted, can be best implemented by writing and ratifying a new civilian and democratic constitution.

Pursuant to the presentations of the Conference attendants and contributions made by its delegates, the EUTCC resolves to adopt the following declarations and calls for action to be undertaken by all the relevant parties to the conflict:

1.)        The Conference notes positively Turkey’s recent reforms, but finds that more reform is needed to meet Turkey’s requirements for EU accession.

2.)        Specifically, the Conference calls on the EC Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the EU to urgently alleviate Mr. Abdullah Öcalan’s current conditions of solitary confinement. In contravention of the ECHR, Öcalan’s attorneys have had no visits allowed during this time. All core conditions must be met in order that Mr. Abdullah Öcalan can play a full part in the negotiation process and also freely communicate with his organization.

3.)        The EUTCC calls for the direct negotiations between Turkey and the Kurds to be re-established immediately and without preconditions. It also calls on the EU to play a role in these negotiations by providing political and official support for the creation of a democratic platform for dialogue between Turkey and the Kurdish representatives. The basis for a general political amnesty must be prepared as part of a wider negotiated peace process. In order to facilitate these negotiations, the Conference urges all countries to remove the PKK from their terrorist lists

4.)        The EUTCC Conference resolves to periodically make recommendations regarding measures for the Turkish accession process, the protection of human rights and the situation of the Kurds. Focusing on the unfair trials and grave violations of human rights in the KCK cases and many others, the Conference calls upon the EU Presidency and Commission to open new chapters in the process of EU-Turkey accession, especially in the field of judiciary and fundamental rights. In parallel with this requirement, the Conference also calls upon the Turkish Government to speed up the legal and judicial reform package by enlarging their contents so that thousands of Kurdish political activists can be released from prisons.

5.)        The Conference calls upon the Turkish authorities to seriously write and ratify the promised new democratic and civil constitution along with resuming a new approach of dialogue and negotiation in all fundamental problematic issues.


The EUTCC Conference calls upon the French authorities to immediate release Mr. Adem Uzun. As a leading legitimate politician of the Kurdish political movement Mr. Uzun is well known for his advocacy of a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem for which he was chosen to be one of the negotiators in the Oslo Peace Talks. We are therefore concerned about his detention and urge an expeditious conclusion to his case by dropping the accusations against him.