The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European Commission adopted a Joint Communication proposing a forward- looking EU strategy for Syria on 14 March 2017. As called for by President Juncker in his State of the Union speech in September 2016, the Communication defines how the European Union can play a stronger role towards a lasting political solution in Syria under the existing UN-agreed framework. It also looks at how the EU can continue its assistance to over 13 million people in Syria, help build resilience and stability in the country, and support post-agreement reconstruction and the voluntary, dignified and safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons once a credible political transition is underway.
Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said:
"With the adoption of the Syria strategy I want to bring my commitment, the humanitarian commitment of the EU, even closer to those most affected by the conflict. To the families trapped in hard to reach and besieged areas or displaced by the fighting. I also want to praise and recognise our humanitarian partners for their tireless efforts to provide neutral and impartial assistance and protection to those most in need all over the country. The EU has allocated €588 million for the humanitarian assistance to serve the needs inside Syria, making it one of the leading donors. We are supporting the provision of health, food, water, protection, and education to people in need. Our assistance will continue for as long as it takes."
The Joint Communication comes at a crucial moment for Syria as the conflict enters its 7th year and with the resumption of the UN-led talks in Geneva, supported by a ceasefire mechanism established as a result of the Astana talks. The Communication reiterates the European Union's direct support for the UN process, notably through ongoing political dialogue with regional actors under the EU regional initiative on the future of Syria and ongoing work to strengthen both the Syrian political opposition and civil society organisations.
The Joint Communication presents the current political, security and humanitarian context in Syria and the state of play of the EU's assistance in response to the Syria crisis. It contains an assessment of the risks and threats posed by the continuation of the war to the EU's core interests, regional and global stability, as well as the definition of a set of clear objectives for the EU's policy for Syria, which also include:
- Saving lives by addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians in a timely, effective, efficient and principled manner;
- Supporting the resilience of the Syrian population, as well as of the institutions and Syrian society.
As a next step, the Communication proposes clear lines of action to implement these objectives in close coordination with regional partners and international organisations, and to continue the diplomatic work and post-agreement planning in order to ensure that international support is ready, coordinated and can be delivered effectively when the appropriate moment comes.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini will present the Joint Communication to EU Foreign Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council on 3 April; it will also be presented to the European Parliament. The Communication will also serve as an important input for the Brussels Conference "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” on 5 April 2017 that the EU will co-chair with the UN, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar and the United Kingdom.
The European Union's last strategy on Syria was adopted in March 2015 as part of the EU Regional Strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the ISIL/Da'esh threat. The Joint Communication represents the review of Syria-related aspects of the Regional Strategy which was last reviewed and updated by the Council in May 2016.
The European Union is a leading donor to the international response to the crisis. More than €9.4 billion have been mobilised for relief and recovery assistance to Syrians in the country and to refugees and their host communities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. In addition, the EU pledged €3 billion at the 'Supporting Syria' conference held in London in February 2016. The European Commission is in daily contact with its humanitarian partners and is coordinating its humanitarian activities with EU member states and all other significant donors.
Humanitarian funding from the EU provides medical emergency relief, protection, food and nutritional assistance, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter, health, and logistics services. Beyond the Syrian border, EU funding ensures that people fleeing the country receive life-saving assistance such as health, food, shelter, hygiene kits, water and sanitation services, and protection.
The EU calls for the respect of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), the protection of civilians, especially children, women and other vulnerable groups, and condemns all indiscriminate attacks on civilians by all parties of the conflict. The EU also calls for all parties to the conflict to allow unhindered and sustained humanitarian access, across conflict lines as well as borders, to ensure safe delivery of humanitarian aid and medical care to all people in need.