Thursday

24th May 2018

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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

Analysis

Russia's Syria tactics imperil EU-Turkey migrant plan

Events in Syria pose questions if the EU-Turkey migrant plan is still relevant. They show the need for solidarity. But there’s little of that and few options on how to stop Turkey's “nightmare.”

EU, US and Russia to 'pause' Syria war

Syria hostilities are to “pause” in one week and aid agencies are to have full access under a new accord which, Germany "hopes," will lead to fewer people fleeing to Europe.

UN 'deeply concerned' by EU-Turkey plan

The UN has spoken out against blanket returns to Turkey after EU leaders earlier Tuesday agreed to a provisional plan to start clearing Greek islands of irregular migrants.

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Privacy Shield less relevant given GDPR, says data chief
  2. Unknown academic to lead Italy into EU clash
  3. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  4. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  5. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  6. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  7. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  8. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight