Zana Abdallah Kurda successfully defends PhD thesis

We are pleased to announce that on 23 April 2021, Zana Abdallah Kurda successfully defended his PhD thesis on the European Union and the Kurds: an in-depth analysis of the EU’s actorness in the transnational Kurdish issue.

The PhD defence started with a welcome note by the Chair, Prof. Alexander Mattelaer, Vice-Dean for Research at the Brussels School of Governance (BSoG). Zana’s supervisor was Prof. Luk Van Langenhove, and the jury consisted of the following members: Prof. Caterina Carta (BSoG), Prof. Philippe De Lombaerde (UNU-CRIS), Dr Hemin N. Jameel (University of Soran), Prof. Fredrik Söderbaum (University of Gothenburg) and Prof. Olesya Tkacheva (BSoG).

Due to current circumstances, the PhD defence took place online.

The Brussels School of Governance would like to congratulate Dr Abdallah Kurda on this achievement! Below you can read more about the PhD thesis of Dr Zana Abdullah Kurda.


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.