Monday

20th Aug 2018

EU toes the line on Syria air strikes

  • French and British jets fired 17 missiles, alongside a US air and naval bombardment (Photo: navy.mil)

EU countries are preparing to back Western air strikes on Syria, the same way they backed the UK on Russia's chemical attack on a former spy.

The EU statement on Syria's use of chemical weapons against civilians is to come from foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (16 April), two days after France, the UK, and the US fired on chemical weapons facilities in the Middle Eastern country.

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

  • Mogherini: "EU supportive of all efforts aimed at prevention of use of chemical weapons" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU "condemnation" of Syria's chemical warfare will be "unequivocal and crystal clear" an EU diplomat said.

It might also speak of further sanctions on Syria, he added.

He said France would brief ministers on the evidence it had of Syria's guilt.

"It's important that we [the EU] demonstrate that the attack is attributable to the [Syrian] regime. We're in an effort to convince some European countries which have doubts, but it's not what you will see come come out of the … [foreign ministers'] conclusions," the EU diplomat said.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who will chair Monday's meeting, gave a foretaste of the feeling in Luxembourg in a statement over the weekend.

"The EU was informed about targeted US, French and UK airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities in Syria," she said.

"The EU is supportive of all efforts aimed at the prevention of the use of chemical weapons," she added.

The EU is "ready to consider imposing further measures [on Syria] as appropriate," she said.

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker also gave a foretaste. "The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons," he said.

Angela Merkel, the German leader, was even more outspoken, despite fears of escalating tensions with Syria's ally, Russia.

"We support the fact that our US, British and French allies ... assumed their responsibilities. The military intervention was necessary and appropriate," she said in a statement.

Russia relations

The EU ministers will also discuss Russia relations on Monday.

Talks will focus on Russia's support for the Syrian regime, its aggression in Ukraine, and Europe's resilience to Russian hacking and propaganda, the EU diplomat said.

Ministers will also discuss "selective engagement" with the Kremlin, on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation in Iran, he said.

"It's important that the EU remains united … what we want to avoid is that each member state has an autonomous policy [on Russia]," the EU diplomat added.

"Our determination must be total, very clear, including regarding the impunity over the use of chemical weapons," he said.

Monday's talks come after EU states expelled dozens of Russian diplomats over Russia's attempt to kill a former spy in the UK using a chemical agent.

A joint EU statement at the time squarely blamed Russia, despite the fact that some member states had raised doubts behind closed doors.

Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia ultimately did not join in with the EU expulsions of Russians.

The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, also warned on Sunday that "we should be at least as worried about the galloping alienation between Russia and the West, the consequences of which stretch far beyond this case [the UK attack]."

Different views

For his part, the Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, continued to deny that Russia or Syria had done anything wrong in an interview with the Belgium-based news agency, Agence Europe, out on Monday.

"It was all fake," Chizhov said on Western evidence of the Syria chemical attack.

He described the chemical attack in the UK as "another attempt in a line of similar attempts by the British authorities to poison Russia-EU relations, not only Russia-UK relations."

Asked if Russia still had any friends in the EU Council, the Russian diplomat added: "I wouldn't name names, but I understand that there are different views".

Opinion

Does the EU have a Syria strategy?

Instability in the Mediterranean region is not in the long-term interest of Europe - that means mobilising leverage that the EU has in other areas to incentivise hard-nosed actors in Moscow, Tehran and Ankara to agree to the EU's vision.

Agenda

Macron and Syria top EU agenda This WEEK

French president to deliver speech on EU democratic model after populist victories in Hungary and Italy and amid an escalation of the Syria crisis.

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. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya
  2. MEP accuses Maltese government of 'hate campaign'
  3. EU values not negotiable, German FM tells Poland
  4. Audit warns 840 French bridges at risk of collapse
  5. Fashion king pours money into campaign for second Brexit vote
  6. Germany could aid Turkey, SPD leader hints
  7. UK government set to publish no-deal Brexit advice
  8. Germany and Greece strike deal on taking back migrants

Opinion

Has the time finally come for 'European champions'?

Since Emmanuel Macron took the French presidency in 2017, the concept of consolidating European industries to create continental 'champions', capable of competing on a global scale, has been revived.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  2. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  3. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  4. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  5. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation
  6. 'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections
  7. Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life
  8. Women shun EU-funded site for female entrepreneurs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us