Myth: The EU and the West are waging an economic war against Syrians.
Fact: Bashar al-Assad said it himself in November 2020: “The current crisis is not linked to the ‘siege’ and it started years after the ‘siege’”.
Syria is in a desperate economic situation, caused among other things by decades of poor economic management, the war economy built by the regime and its protégés, the Lebanese banking crisis, and widespread corruption.
In a televised visit to a manufacturers’ exhibition in Damascus, in November 2020, Bashar al-Assad provided his own analysis by plainly blaming the Lebanese banking crisis for Syria’s economic crisis and said: “This current crisis is not caused by the ‘siege’; “This siege has lasted for years—and that doesn’t mean that the siege is fine. The siege is harmful and has a direct impact on all aspects of life. However, for the current crisis, which began several months ago, the core reason for it is the Lebanese banking crisis. This crisis started before the Caesar Act, and years after the start of the siege. Okay, so what coincided with it? The money that vanished in Lebanon. And we paid the price”, he continued.
EU sanctions against the Syrian regime have been in place and mostly unchanged since 2011, as a reaction to the brutal repression of the civilian population. They have been recently renewed until 1 June 2022. The list now includes 283 persons and 70 entities, targeted by both an asset freeze and a travel ban, as well as some sectoral sanctions targeting the sources of income of the war economy.
EU restrictive measures are designed to avoid impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Exports of food, medicines or medical equipment such as respirators and ventilators are not subject to EU sanctions.
There is no humanitarian and trade embargo on Syria. EU goods have been flowing freely into the country until 2019. Trade then went down because of the collapse of Lebanon’s banking sector, that was Syria’s main trade and financial gateway to the world but EU consumer goods, medicines etc. are not subject to sanctions and continue to enter the country.
Far from looking away from the dire humanitarian situation that most Syrians are facing, the EU and its Member States have been by far the largest provider of support to Syrians throughout the past ten years. We have collectively mobilised close to €25 billion of humanitarian, stabilisation and resilience assistance.
Sanctions are still in place for a reason. Despite attempts by the Syrian regime at presenting the country as peaceful and under control, the repression and the military operations continue. Accountability is missing at all levels and money is still being diverted from meeting the needs of Syrians to fuelling corruption and clientelism and financing the war.