EU Global Strategy

Factsheet - EU Sanctions on the situation in Syria

28/05/2020 - 11:36
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EU  sanctions, imposed since 9 May 2011, respond  to  the repression  perpetrated  on  the  Syrian  people by  the  Syrian  regime  and its supporters, including through the use of live ammunition against peaceful protesters, and the regime’s involvement in the proliferation and use of chemical weapons.

As the situation in Syria deteriorated, and in line with the European Council conclusions of 23 October 2011, EU sanctions focused on sending a message to powerful political and economic actors that their support to the regime would come at a cost.

EU sanctions are designed in a way that only targets the specific individuals and entities on the sanctions list, avoiding negative impacts on the population, and they comply with all obligations under international law, in particular international refugee law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law.  EU sanctions do not impede the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian population.

The goal of these measures is to put pressure on the Syrian regime to halt its repression and negotiate a lasting political settlement of the Syrian crisis in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 under UN auspices. They are part and parcel of the EU’s wider approach to the Syria crisis.

The EU imposes different types of targeted measures:

  • Individual restrictive measures targeting persons and entities responsible for the repression of the civilian population
  • Sectoral restrictions

Individual restrictive measures

273 individuals and 70 entities are subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban because of their role in the repression of the civilian population. These sanctions also target actors supporting the Syrian regime, including prominent businesspersons and companies making large profits from the war economy and helping to finance that regime in return.

Such  individuals, organisations  or  companies  have  become  directly  or  indirectly  complicit  in  the  repression  because  the  regime  has  made  it  very  clear  that  it  will continue carrying out its brutal crackdowns, including through the use of chemical weapons as reported by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Sectoral restrictions

The  EU  restrictive  measures  are  designed  to  have  maximum  impact  on  the  regime, while minimising any potential negative impacts on the people of Syria. Economic measures concern very specific sectors and include:

  • a ban of export of equipment that might be used for internal repression and technology intended for the monitoring or interception of the internet or telephone communications;
  • a ban on import and purchase of oil and petroleum products from Syria;
  • a prohibition on trading Syrian public bonds to or from the Syrian government;
  • a ban on trade in goods belonging to Syria's cultural heritage, which have been illegally removed from Syria and a prohibition to export luxury goods to Syria.

These activities have been used to either finance or carry out the repression of the Syrian people.

EU humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria

The provision of medicines, medical equipment or medical assistance provided to the population at large is not subject to EU sanctions. Humanitarian operators can also benefit from exceptions for activities needed to provide humanitarian assistance that allow, for example, buying fuel to transport medical devices, exchanging currency or building makeshift hospitals.

Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the EU and its Member States have been the largest donors of humanitarian aid to Syria and the region, with a total EU assistance of over €17 billion in humanitarian, development, economic and stabilisation assistance. EU humanitarian assistance is made available throughout Syria according to the sole criterion of need and makes up the most significant contribution to the UN Humanitarian Response Plan.  Inside Syria, the EU has supported over 40 humanitarian partners working wherever needs are, throughout the country. They are providing Syrians with food assistance, healthcare services, psycho-social support, shelter, water and sanitation as well as education and protection services, where possible. Since 2011, EU humanitarian aid has helped at least 6.5 million people through protection activities; 144,000 children with education; 6.6 million people with water and sanitation; more than 4 million people with food security and livelihood support.