Friday

30th Sep 2016

Opinion

Time for EU to face responsibilities on Syria

  • Homs, in western Syria: country has changed unimaginably since peaceful street protests began five years ago (Photo: Chaoyue 超越 PAN 潘)

It is nearly five years since Syrians first took peacefully to the streets in hope of a better future. Since those protests were viciously put down by the regime and that country slid slowly and inexorably into war, there has rarely been cause for optimism on Syria.

Although peace remains a distant prospect, the agreement reached in Munich this February is one of those rare yet fragile moments where optimism has a place. It is a moment though that needs to be grasped and held.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

We have seen before how fleeting such moments can be. A similar agreement was struck in Geneva way back in 2012, when the war was still a relatively local affair.

Lacking in urgency, that agreement went largely ignored and was ultimately unenforced. Today the world - and Syria - are very different places.

Europe is paralysed to act. The US wilfully declines to act. And Russia, currently the biggest bomber of civilians in Syria, acts mostly to obstruct constructive engagement towards any political solution that would mean the end of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s power.

A deeply bitter and unimaginably complex war has taken hold.

Countless UN resolutions, statements, ceasefires agreements and communiques have been issued: all ignored. All the while, warring parties bomb more hospitals and schools and have forced over ten million Syrians from their homes.

It is little wonder that Syrians have little faith in the international community's resolve to end the crisis.

They are understandably cynical about the agreement in Munich and will measure its success in simple terms: if the bombs stop falling and the sieges are lifted.

Any scepticism they have is well founded. The day before the agreement was reached, four hospitals in Aleppo and Idlbib provinces were decimated by pro-Assad jets. In one attack, 25 people were killed when a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Idlib province was bombed four times in minutes.

Around the world, domestic concerns take precedence over this barbarism in the minds of leaders.

In Russia, for example, public support for the country’s adventures in Syria is running high. When Russian jets bombed around 900 targets in Aleppo in early February, state broadcasters told the Russian public not of the suffering wrought but of the awesome might of Russian bombers and of the heroic feats of its pilots in the skies above Syria.

On one hand, we hear from all corners that there is no military solution to the crisis. But warring parties and their backers in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia or Western countries, are doing their best to prove such assertions wrong. Each day of destruction and vengeance moves everyone further away from peace.

Ongoing carnage serves only to crystallise one thing in the minds of many Syrians: they will never accept a peace deal that keeps a brutal dictator in power or elevates extremist thugs to positions of influence.

If they see this fate coming they will fight on endlessly or flee the country in even higher numbers - and many, many more will arrive on the shores of Europe. European leaders must recognise this now.

It is time for European countries - the same countries from where up to 60 million refugees fled during World War II - to stop bickering amongst each other about how to accommodate 1 million refugees into a vast union of 500 million inhabitants.

It is time for their leaders to stop acting like selfish, short-termist populists that turn away in times of adversity.

It is time for Europe to speak with one voice, to speak loud and clear to leaders and publics alike that now is the time for a ceasefire to start, a ceasefire that offer Syrians genuine protection and sets the stage not for more war but for an agreement that finally respects the hopes and dreams of those brave Syrians who took peacefully to the streets in 2011.

Alain Deletroz is an executive in residence at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a Swiss-based foundation, and a former vice-president of the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank

Column / Crude World

Why Putin's union doesn't want to work with the EU

The EU should not dismiss institutional cooperation with the Russia-led economic association. But Moscow's previous behaviour with Ukraine and Moldova shows it won't let its neighbours turn too much to the West.

Opinion

Steel overcapacity crisis - from Europe to China

While the debate has escalated about China’s steel overcapacity, it is not exactly new. The first postwar steel crisis occurred in the US and Europe. Beijing seeks to avoid a deja vu of bad policies.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFAEFA Supports a YES Vote in the Hungarian Referendum
  2. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  3. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  5. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  6. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  7. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  8. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  9. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  10. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  11. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  12. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List