The conference set for December 2008 was moved to early 2009. In the 2008 the security situation in Turkey remained poor. There was an increase in Turkish military operations in the Kurdish region and against PKK bases in Kurdistan Iraq, there were a number of attacks that killed civilians, including a bombing that left 17 dead in Istanbul, and the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish State intensified. Additionally, there were periods of civil unrest, in particular in the Kurdish region in response to the alleged ill-treatment of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the PKK, who is the sole inmate of the prison on Imrali Island.
There remain serious concerns that Turkey has not made enough progress in the areas of rights and democracy. Although the amendment of Article 301 of the Penal Code was welcomed, concerns persist that these amendments are insuffcient and superficial. The Final Resolutions from the Fourth International Conference on EU, Turkey, and the Kurds noted that ‘no major issue [had] been addressed and significant problems persist,’ especially with regards to Turkey’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, military activities of the state, and democratically supported dialogue between all peoples constituting the Turkish Republic. Turkey’s military activities continue unchecked, with no promise of a democratic resolution to the ongoing conflict in the Kurdish region and no impetus from the EU to end military activities.