Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Donors pledge billions for Syria amid European shame

  • 13.5 million men, women and children inside Syria need urgent assistance, says the United Nations (Photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki)

Donors from around the world pledged €5.5 billion in aid for Syria, with Germany saying Europe should be ashamed for not doing more given the efforts in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.

"Looking at the willingness of Europe to take in refugees, I think that we can only thank those countries and we should be ashamed," Germany's foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters on Wednesday (5 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Lebanon has a population of four million but hosts over 1 million displaced Syrians on top of half a million Palestinian refugees.

Lebanon's prime minister, Saad Al-Harir, described the tensions and social unrest between Lebanese citizens and Syrian refugees as a "ticking time bomb".

"I'm afraid that Lebanon cannot continue and will not continue to sustain the consequences of hosting 1.5 million displaced on its territory," he said.

Jordan has a population of over six million and hosts 2.8 million refugees. Of those, around 1.3 million are Syrian, and only half are registered with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

"This is equivalent to 200 million refugees being hosted by the EU, not factoring that the EU on average, is more than 500 percent wealthier in terms of per capita income," said Jordan's prime minister, Hani Al-Mulki.

Turkey hosts close to three million, whereas around 880,000 asylum applications were filed by Syrians in Europe between 2011 and 2016.

Low-level envoys

Representatives from 70 countries and organisations had gathered in Brussels to discuss the conflict in Syria as a follow-up to a similar meeting in London last year.

The latest pledge also includes €3.47 billion up until 2020, with leaders saying none will go towards reconstruction unless there is a serious effort in moving towards a political transition of power.

"There is one thing that we will not pay for, unless we see a credible political transition in Damascus, and this is reconstruction," said Gabriel.

His views were echoed by the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, who described the fund as a powerful "peace dividend".

But notable absences at the conference also included Turkey, and only low-level envoys were present from Iran, Russia and the United States.

All are seen as key decision-makers in a conflict that has been raging on for the past six years - killing hundreds of thousands and producing over 5 million Syrian refugees.

Iran, Russia and Turkey are supposed to guarantee a ceasefire in Syria, following their Astana meetings.

The effort is crucial in helping humanitarian relief to access the war-torn country.

But Turkey did not send anyone to Brussels. Iran and Russia sent deputy foreign ministers, while the United States sent an under-secretary of state.

Last year's London conference had been attended by John Kerry, the then US secretary of state.

The lack of US engagement points to a broader policy shift under Donald Trump, who has warmed up to the Syrian regime's biggest ally, Russia.

Chemical attack and UN fiasco

The conference came on the heels of a suspected nerve agent gas attack earlier this week in a town in the Idlib province.

A UK-based Syrian monitoring group says the death toll has climbed to around 86, with images of children and civilians suffocating and foaming at the mouth.

Leaders and ministers have condemned the attack amid demands for an immediate investigation.

Britain and France had called an emergency session at the UN's security council to demand an investigation by the Organisation of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

But the vote was postponed due to Russian resistance, with the country having since drafted its own resolution on the matter.

All three nations are veto-holding permanent members of the security council.

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us