Monday

4th Mar 2024

EU diplomat voices concern on Syria children

EU countries must redouble efforts to get Syrian children back to school, or risk a generation more prone to radical ideas, a European diplomat has warned.

“What we’ve seen over the summer is a change in the kind of refugees coming to Europe. It’s not just young men. It’s families and children. If you talk to them, they’ll tell you that even if there’s a ceasefire tomorrow, they can’t go home because they can’t ensure a future for their children,” Christian Berger, the EU foreign service’s Middle East director, told a European Parliament hearing on Wednesday (18 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Speaking in the context of the Paris attack last week, he described the issue as a “long-term strategic threat.”

“We have to make sure the children, whether they’re in Europe, or in refugee camps, or in other places we can reach, are being educated .. or this will come back to haunt us in future,” he added.

Haitham al-Maleh, a Syrian jurist and former prisoner of conscience, told MEPs at the event that 2.5 million Syrian children are out of school.

The 85-year old broke down in tears when he mentioned the number.

He went on to list other war damage, including: 350,000 dead, 25,000 of them children; 300,000 incarcerated; 13.5 million displaced; 3 million houses destroyed; also 4,400 schools, 2,029 mosques, and 70 percent of hospitals.

The Syria war, now in its fifth year, is the main source of the EU refugee crisis.

It is also the source of the Paris security crisis, after Islamic State (IS), one of the principal rebel groups in Syria, claimed responsibility for the French assault.

Recent talks in Vienna said UN-brokered ceasefire negotiations are to start on 1 January, followed by a new constitution, and internationally monitored elections.

They raised hope because Iran and Saudi Arabia, the main adversaries in what is also a regional conflict, attended for the first time.

Berger described the Vienna accord as a “positive step.”

'Multiple conflicts'

But he noted the political process can’t start until the shooting stops.

He also noted Syria has become a theatre for “multiple conflicts.”

He listed them as: Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad vs. all opposition forces; IS vs. all other forces; Sunni Muslim Syrians vs. Shia Muslim Syrians; Iran and Hezbollah (an Iran-backed militia in Lebanon) vs. the Gulf states; Turkey vs. Kurdish forces; Israel vs. Hezbollah; and Russia vs. the West.

“It’s difficult to come up with one political process which addresses all of these,” Berger said.

But he indicated EU states can do more to stop financial and arms flows “to get the oxygen out of the fighting.”

For his part, Hisham Marwah, a prominent figure in the Syrian National Coalition, a Qatari-founded anti-Assad group, told MEPs “moderate” military groups in Syria are in talks to form a new “military council” in line with the Vienna process.

He said Assad created IS by freeing radicals from jail to foster a situation in which it’s “either him or the terrorists.”

Iran is key

Fouad Hamdan, the director of the Rule of Law Foundation, a Dutch-based NGO, said only “boots on the ground” will defeat IS.

He added that Iran, not Russia, will be decisive on Syria’s future, and on the region’s future more broadly, because it will never disarm Hezbollah or withdraw from Syria so long as it feels threatened by the West or by Gulf states.

“You have to give Iran something,” he said.

Hamdan, who comes from Lebanon, said his home country is “on the verge of exploding again,” following 25 years of peace since the 1975 to 1990 civil war.

He said it’s also “on the verge” of a new Hezbollah-Israel war.

Germany makes U-turn on Syria refugees

The interior ministry announced Tuesday it would start sending back Syrian refugees to the country of entry into the EU, taking coalition partners by surprise.

Anti-terror raid in Paris region

Eight suspected terrorists are reported dead or arrested. The mastermind of Friday's Paris attacks was targeted.

Opinion

A Syrian legion for the Levant

If the West can train, arm, and support just 20,000 willing volunteers from the Syrian diaspora, there is no better way to liberate their homeland, the Czech ambassador to Belgium writes.

EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

The European Commission will release €50m out of €82m in funds for the UN aid agency (UNRWA) operating in Gaza. The remaining €32m will come pending an audit. The commission has received no evidence to support Israeli allegations against UNRWA.

Opinion

The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse

With Alexei Navalny's funeral in Moscow on Friday, Vladimir Putin's regime haven't just insulted his mother and widow with their treatment of his corpse — they've breached international treaties and conventions.

Latest News

  1. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  2. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  3. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  4. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity
  5. Defence, von der Leyen, women's rights, in focus This WEEK
  6. The farming lobby vs Europe's wolves
  7. EU socialists fight battle on two fronts in election campaign
  8. EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us