Kurdish Conference at EP: Time for sanctions against Turkey

The conference kicked off with opening speeches which were also translated into Kurdish.

The 16the International Conference titled “The European Union, Turkey, the Middle East and the Kurds” has opened today at European Parliament in Brussels.

The annual conference is organised by European Union Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC) in cooperation with the Kurdish Institute of Brussels and sees the participation of several political parties representatives and renowned individuals. The conference is supported by European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), the Greens/EFA and Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

The conference kicked off with opening speeches which were also translated into Kurdish.

EUTCC Chair Kariane Westrheim welcomed the participants of the conference.

Recalling the 16 years of discussion of the Kurdish question, the problems in Turkey and the situation in the Middle East, and the search for a solution, she put emphasis on the importance of these issues for the European Union as well.

Mentioning the issues in Turkey and relations with the European Union, Westrheim called attention to Turkey’s policy of blackmail over refugees and said “The EU shouldn’t let itself be taken captive by Turkey.”

EUTCC Chair recalled that Rojava has been a beacon of peace and welcomed refugees without ever making this issue as a bargaining chip until the Turkish invasion, and continued; “The Turkish invasion has been carried out in violation of international law. The Turkish President did not hide his intention for an ethnic cleansing. The invasion has displaced over 300,000 local people. A new Arab Belt is being created in the region, and ethnic cleansing being perpetrated.”


Westrheim stressed that the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria should be recognized by the international community. She also called for the release of Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan and recognition of the Kurds as a major actor in the Middle East. She also underlined the need to find new ways and to develop new discourses to progress on a straigth path.


A following opening speech was made by Nikolaj Villumsen of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) who called for the resolution of the Kurdish question. He recalled the Belgian Court ruling that PKK is not a terrorist organisation and described the verdict as a “major step”.

Villumsen remarked that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan escalated the tensions, saying; “Erdoğan is not as powerful as he pretends to be. He is economically dependent on Europe.”

Villumsen said that Erdoğan would bend the knee in the event of facing economic pressure, adding; “Erdoğan would be weak if there was a strong will to confront him in Europe.”

The GUE/NGL MEP expressed their solidarity with the Kurds, saying; “We are happy to struggle alongside our friends.”


MEP Andreas Schieder of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) also made an opening speech and said it was an honor for him to participate in the conference. He talked about his visit to Rojava recently and stressed that the Kurdish people were being through challenging times because of the Turkish invasion.

Rojava is a success, it has brought about stability and peace, said Schieder and added, “Turkish invasion has caused numerous troubles in the region, including instability, humanitarian disasters and forced displacement.”

Schieder highlighted the needs to send humanitarian aid to the region and stressed that the Constitution being worked on in Geneva talks should involve the Kurds.

He called for an international peace force to be deployed to the region and prevention of Erdoğan’s demographic change policy.

Schieder also talked about the current problems in Turkey and said the country needed a true democratization.


The following speech was held by MEP François Alfonsi of the Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) who described the Kurdish people’s fight for freedom ongoing for years as an exemplary struggle.

Mentioning the fight against ISIS, Alfonsi made it clear that there would have been no success against the ISIS if it wasn’t for the Kurds.

Alfonsi put emphasis on the need for dialogue, peace and democracy in Turkey and said the European Union’s operation of the economic pressure mechanism would have a great influence.

Alfonsi remarked that the EU’s listing the PKK as a terrorist organisation gave Turkey a powerful diplomatic weapon, saying that they would be working for the Belgian verdict in favor of the PKK to be a precedent at the European institutions and the United Nations.

Remarking that Erdoğan was weaker compared to 10 years ago and described his blackmail as an indication of his weakness. He noted that Kurds were in difficult conditions today but had significant achievements politically.


The last opening speech was made by Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice-President of European Parliament who noted that the situation got heavier since last year.

“We are the progressives advocating for human rights and the rights of the Kurds. The European Union has condemned the Turkish incursion into Syria and the European Parliament adopted a similar motion condemning the military incursion of Turkey. This, however, is not enough as unfavorable situations and massacres do not stop. There is a need for tougher measures. There should be sanctions.”


Papadimoulis continued; “We should send a message and urge further pressure because Erdoğan takes advantage of the conjuncture. Our message should be clear. Respecting the international law and securing human rights is the only way out. All diplomatic measures should be adopted to this end. It is time for sanctions against Turkish officials and this includes an arms embargo.”

Following the opening speeches, the conference continues with two panels to discuss “Oppression and Resistance in Turkey” and “The EU - Turkey Relationship: Accession Talks, Refugee Crisis and The Kurds”.