Following the escalation of violence and unacceptable human rights situation in Syria in 2011, and in parallel with the adoption of various restrictive measures , the EU suspended all its bilateral cooperation with the Government of Syria in May 2011. Syria’s participation in regional programmes was suspended in September 2011 and the provision of loans and technical assistance through the European Investment Bank (EIB) was ceased in November 2011. Nevertheless, the EU maintains its direct support to the Syrian population, both inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries.
Current EU Assistance to the Syrian Population - key figures
The EU and its Member States are the largest contributor to the international response to the Syrian crisis, having mobilised so far €6.6 billion for relief and recovery assistance to those affected by the conflict inside Syria and in the region ( Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey). Of this amount, €3.4 billion has been allocated from the EU budget in humanitarian, development and stabilisation assistance, of which close to €820m (25%) for assistance inside Syria.
On 16 March 2015, the Council adopted the EU regional strategy for Syria, Iraq and the Da'esh threat. In May 2016, the EU reviewed the strategy and agreed to keep implementing it as set out in 23 May 2016 Council conclusions.
European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENPI)
The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) is the main EU financial instrument to address the medium to longer term needs of the affected population inside Syria. Over €150 million have been mobilised from ENI inside Syria since the start of the crisis in 2011.
In Syria, ENI assistance aims at supporting the resilience of the population affected by the conflict and at paving the way for transition and post-conflict recovery of Syria. Assistance is provided in sectors such as Education, support to livelihoods, civil society capacity building, health, or cultural heritage preservation. ENI support is provided, as much as feasible, all over Syria and delivered through United Nations Organisations, international NGOs and EU Member States agencies in close complementarity to humanitarian aid.
Other sources of funding
The European Commission’s Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) has mobilised more than €580 millionof emergency assistance to the population affected by the Syrian crisis inside Syria.
Other EU thematic instruments used in responding to the crisis in Syria are: the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) (€13 million) for support to human rights, accountability and independent media, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) (€58 million) for support regarding service provision, local governance, transitional justice and mediation/peace-building, and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) (€6 million) for actions targeting resilience in the agricultural sector.
Syrian students also remain eligible to benefit from the Erasmus+ programme.
For the region affected by the Syrian crisis, in December 2014, the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis has been established. The EUTF is an efficient, quick disbursing mechanism, established to provide a more coherent and reinforced EU response to the Syrian crisis on a regional scale. The fund has currently allocated funding worth €630 million for actions addressing resilience needs of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, as well as supporting host communities and their administrations.
Past Cooperation Programmes
EU-Syria cooperation was governed by a Cooperation Agreement signed in 1977. Negotiations on an Association Agreement were concluded in October 2004, but the Agreement was never signed or ratified.
Prior to the suspension of the assistance, the axes of the EU's bilateral cooperation with Syria under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) were laid down in the Country Strategy Paper for Syria 2007-13 and consisted in supporting the reforms in the political and administrative sector as well as in the economic and social sectors.
A €129 million budget was allocated to implement the National Indicative Programme for 2011-13 but activities were suspended in 2011 and this amount was re-allocated to respond to the consequences of the crisis on the Syrian population.