Relations between the EU and Syria are governed by the Cooperation Agreement signed in 1977. Since violence and repression broke out in Syria in March 2011, the EU has not only called repeatedly for an end to attacks , but also suspended other agreements intended to forge a closer relationship with Damascus.
By September 2013, over 100 000 people had lost their lives, 4 million were internally displaced and about 2 million had fled the country.
Most recently in its Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of May 2013 , the EU has reacted strongly to the violence by urging the regime to stop targeting civilians, to halt airstrikes and artillery attacks and to end all violence immediately.
The EU has also consistently deplored the serious abuses – including war crimes – committed by anti-government and armed groups.
The EU has provided €843 million in humanitarian assistance for emergency relief, food assistance, water, sanitation, shelter, logistics, protection and more. When combined with contributions from EU countries, the overall contribution of €1.3 billion puts the EU as the leading provider of humanitarian assistance to Syrians.
Syria is a signatory of the 1995 Barcelona Declaration and a member of the Union for the Mediterranean. Syria is also a member of the European Neighbourhood Policy, but does not yet benefit from all its instruments and incentives, pending entry into force of the Association Agreement.
Negotiations on an Association Agreement were frozen in May 2011, while bilateral cooperation programmes under the European Neighbourhood Policy have been suspended. Participation in the EU’s regional programmes by Syrian authorities has also been suspended, and the European Investment Bank has deferred all loans and technical assistance to Syria.
An array of restrictive measures are designed to put pressure on the Syrian regime, including a ban on the import of arms and related material from Syria, export restrictions on equipment that could be used for repression, an import ban on crude oil and petroleum products from Syria, the freezing of the Syrian central bank’s assets, asset freezes on a number of entities and persons, and travel restrictions for a specific list of individuals associated with repression.
Prior to the violence, priorities of EU cooperation with Syria were defined in the Country Strategy Paper and National Indicative Programme . The main aim of this cooperation was to support Syria’s domestic reform process.
The situation continues to evolve, and the EU is party to international discussions seeking an end to the violence.