Public Ph.D Defense Zana Abdallah Kurda

Friday 23 April 2021, 14:00 to 16:00

THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE KURDS: An in-depth analysis of the EU’s actorness in the transnational Kurdish issue.

The public defense of Zana Abdallah Kurda will take place on 23 April from 14:00 - 16:00 CET in an online format.

Please click this link to register for the online defense

Upon registration you will receive an automated link from Zoom to attend the defense, as well as a separate link (in the same confirmation) for the digital reception.


This doctoral thesis provides a comprehensive analysis of the performance of the European Union (EU) as an actor in the Kurdish issue. As such, it seeks to answer the question how the EU has performed as an actor in relation to the Kurdish issue? As a transnational political conflict across four states (Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey), the Kurdish issue involves various sub-state, state and global actors. Inspired by the EU’s ‘Copenhagen criteria’, the existing literature has portrayed an image of the EU as a purely normative actor involved in (finding a solution to) the Kurdish issue in Turkey. However, the last two decades have witnessed an evolvement of the EU’s actorness in the Kurdish issue, increasingly shaped by the pursuit of common (geopolitical) interests and marked by interactions with Kurdish entities in various states. Hence, moving beyond the EU- Turkey relationship as the standard (empirical) context, this research analyses, in an embedded single case, the EU’s actorness in the Kurdish issues in the four mentioned states. The within-case findings confirm that the EU’s actorness has been increasingly shaped around common needs and desires of EU political actors to collectively respond to new geopolitical challenges, some of which have involved the Kurds playing vital roles as sub-state actors (e.g. the war against ISIS, the migration crisis). Moreover, rational about its bilateral interests as well as about the extent of its acceptance as an actor, the EU has acted along the ‘four realities’ of the Kurdish issue. In addition to its case-specific empirical contribution, this thesis provides insights, from a broader perspective, into the EU’s actorness in a geopolitical context.


13:55-14:00 : Room 'opens'

14:00: Welcome by the Chair, Prof. Alexander Mattelaer, Brussels School of Governance (BSoG, VUB)
14:05: PhD presentation
14:25: PhD defense


  • Prof. Caterina Carta, Brussels School of Governance (BSoG, VUB)
  • Prof. Philippe De Lombaerde, United Nations University on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS)
  • Dr. Hemin N. Jameel, University of Soran
  • Prof. Fredrik Söderbaum, University of Gothenburg
  • Prof. Olesya Tkacheva, Brussels School of Governance (BSoG, VUB)

followed by a Q&A with the audience

15:15: Deliberation
15.20: Conferment of degree
15.30: Speech by Supervisor Prof. Luk Van Langenhove, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
15.45: Speech by Zana Abdallah Kurda
15.55: Thank you & closure

16.00: Reception in the same Zoom Room