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European Union External Action

Syria and the EU

In 2011, the EU responded to the unacceptable violence used by the military and security forces against peaceful protestors against the government in Syria. The EU suspended its cooperation with the Syrian Government under the European Neighbourhood Policy and gradually extended restrictive measures to pressurise the Syrian Government into ending violence, and to encourage a political solution to the conflict.  From the very outset, the EU has condemned human rights violations in Syria in the strongest terms.

Our objective is to bring an end to the conflict and enable the Syrian people to live in peace in their own country. The latest EU position is stated in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions of 23 May 2016.

The EU is a full member and active participant in the International Syria Support Group. It fully supports the UN-led process, notably the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Syria.

Only a Syrian-led political process leading to a peaceful and inclusive transition, based on the principles of the Geneva communiqué of 30 June 2012 and in line with relevant UN Security Council resolutions (notably 2254 (2015), will bring back stability to Syria.

In response to the continuing conflict and its consequences – both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries – the EU and its Member States are implementing a comprehensive EU regional strategy for Syria, Iraq and the Da'esh threat adopted in March 2015.

The Syrian crisis has become the world's worst humanitarian disaster. The EU and its member states are leading the international response. As the largest donor, they have mobilised over €6.4 bn in humanitarian aid as well as stabilisation and development assistance since the conflict began, to those affected by the conflict inside Syria and refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries, especially Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. In December 2014, the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis has been established.

The EU Delegation to Syria has scaled down its activities in the host country. The Delegation staff operates from Brussels and Beirut, visiting Damascus on a regular basis.

The EU will continue its active engagement in the Global Coalition to counter ISIL/Da’esh. The Syria and Iraq: Counter-Terrorism/Foreign Fighters Strategy endorsed in October 2014 is an integral part of the regional strategy.

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.

ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) has been a leading donor for providing humanitarian assistance inside Syria and maintains daily contact with various humanitarian actors in Syria. It provides humanitarian aid through its trusted partners such as ICRC, UN agencies and international and local implementing partners, using all possible channels to deliver assistance across Syria where it is most needed. This includes cross line operations and cross border from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

Like the rest of the EU Delegation to Syria, the ECHO Office in Damascus was never closed. For security reasons, ECHO international staff was relocated in 2012 but continued to perform their tasks from Amman, Beirut and - when visas were granted - from Damascus. Only in February 2016 was the international staff promised permanent access to Syria.

As everywhere else in the world, ECHO Syria operates with great autonomy. Its work is based solely on humanitarian principles of independent, impartial, neutral and needs-based assistance.

The ECHO Office in Damascus allows the EU to properly monitor the scale-up of humanitarian aid operations inside Syria and to engage directly with humanitarian partners on the ground. Furthermore, the presence of ECHO in and around Syria informs the EU's active membership in the International Syria Support Group, especially in its humanitarian task force.

The EU also supports refugees and their host communities in the countries neighboring Syria.

For more information, visit the ECHO webpage on Syria:
http://ec.europa.eu/echo/where/middle-east-north-africa/syria_en

The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis adopted a package of programmes, the single biggest EU measure in response to the Syrian refugee crisis to date. The programmes will in the coming months help up to 1.5 million Syrian refugees and overstretched host communities in the nearest countries through the provision of basic education and child protection, better access to healthcare, improved water and waste-water infrastructure, as well as support to resilience, economic opportunities and social inclusion.

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