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Due to ongoing violent events in Syria, the European Union suspended all its cooperation with the Syrian government in 2011. However, the European Union remains committed to deliver assistance to the Syrian population, notably refugees, students, human rights defenders and the civil society.
Current EU Assistance to the Syrian population
Following the escalation of the violence in Syria in 2011, and in parallel to the different restrictive measures adopted, the European Union progressively suspended its cooperation instruments with Syria. Bilateral cooperation was suspended in May 2011, Syria's participation to regional programmes in September 2011 and loans and technical assistance of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in November 2011.
However, the EU maintains its support to the Syrian population through different instruments:
The Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) of the European Commission has mobilized €265 million to date to support emergency assistance to the population affected by the Syrian crisis, both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey). For more information on EU's Humanitarian Aid in Syria, please consult ECHO's website.
European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)
The ENPI has been used since 2011 to address the consequences of the Syrian crisis through a series of Special Measures. These measures address the medium-term needs of the population (Education, vocational training, psycho-social support, support to livelihoods, etc) both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees :
In December 2011, the European Commission adopted a €10 million special measure targeting both Palestinian refugees and Syrian population affected by the crisis in Syria. For more details, click here .
In December 2012, the European Commission adopted a €20.9 million special measure in favour of the Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. For more details, please click here.
Eventually, In April 2013, the European Commission adopted another €30 million special measure in favour of the Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon. For more details, click here.
Other sources of funding
Alongside these special measures from the bilateral funding under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), the Syrian population currently also benefits from other programmes such as Erasmus Mundus and TEMPUS, promoting mobility of students and cooperation among higher education institutions. Other thematic instruments are still being to the benefit the Syrian people such as the Non-State Actors – Local authorities instrument aiming at building capacities of Civil Society Organisations and the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) supporting Organisations defending Human Rights.
The Instrument for Stability also mobilised assistance for a total amount of €28 million to assist those affected by the Syrian crisis.
EU-Syria cooperation is governed by a Cooperation Agreement signed in 1977. Negotiations on an Association Agreement were concluded in October 2004, but the agreement was never signed and ratified.
Cooperation until 2006
From 1995 to 2006 the European Union co-operation with Syria took place within the framework of the MEDA programme. During this period, more than €235 million of financial assistance were allocated to Syria. This assistance was concentrated on a limited number of priority sectors such as institutional strengthening, industrial modernisation, development of human resources, trade enhancement and the promotion of human rights and of the rule of law. Reform-oriented projects, particularly in economic and administrative field were implemented in the private and public sectors.
The three main axes of the European Union's bilateral co-operation with Syria under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument are laid down in the Country Strategy Paper for 2007-2013 . They consist in supporting the reforms in the (1) political and administrative, (2) economic and (3) social sectors.
The National Indicative Programme for 2007-2010 earmarked an overall amount of €130 million for supporting political and administrative (€30 million, 23%), economic (€50 million, 38%) and social (€40 million, 31%) reforms in the country. A further €10 million was allocated to support decentralisation through interest rate subsidies of the European Investemnt Bank (EIB) loans.
The National Indicative Programme for 2011-2013 planned €129 million of assistance for the period but operations were suspended in 2011 and this amount was reallocated to respond to the consequences of the crisis on the Syrian population.
For the European Neighbourhood Policy and the EU policy towards Syria see the European External Action Service website.