Briefing paper: One question, any answers? The EU’s role in solving the Kurdish question in Turkey

11 01 2011
Johanna Nykänen


The Kurdish question in Turkey is one of the most pressing issues facing the EU in its near neighbourhood. It has the potential to destabilise the region, with ramifications for the EU.

The EU has failed to facilitate a solution to the Kurdish question in the framework of Turkey’s EU accession process. This is due in part to its non-conclusive policies towards Turkey in general and the Kurdish question in particular.

The Turkish government is currently leading the mediation process on the Kurdish question, but lacks adequate legitimacy across the whole political spectrum to find a holistic and lasting solution.

By taking a more active role in finding a solution to the Kurdish question, the EU could breathe new life into EU-Turkey relations and enhance its global role.

The EU can either take a passive approach and apply stricter conditionality with clear goals, or an active role and offer to take part in the mediation process.

Applying more conditionality is a politically viable but ineffective option. To give it the maximum boost, it would have to be coupled with strong EU support for enhancing political legitimacy in Turkey.

Mediation is an effective yet politically ambitious option. It would allow the EU to use its post-Lisbon competences, and offer the EU a more prominent role in peace mediation activities. But finding a mandate that would satisfy all sides within the EU and in Turkey would be a challenge.

Click to read the briefing paper



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