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Is the EU Syria Policy Cracking?

Some EU countries have begun to pressure to change some policies in line with the interests of al-Assad and his regime, according to al-Modon.
Is the EU Syria Policy Cracking?

The European Union is witnessing serious differences and fissures among member states regarding the policy of dealing with the Syrian regime and its president, Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, some countries have begun to pressure to change some policies in line with the interests of al-Assad and his regime.

The American review “Foreign Policy” quoted four European officials as saying that despite the European Union’s official position on the Syrian regime, minor differences appeared at times between member states regarding the policy of dealing with the Syrian regime, which in recent months turned into serious differences.

The review said that cracks have begun to emerge among EU member states. Although minor differences in perspective have existed within the EU for some time, these have morphed into serious and substantive disagreements in recent months, according to four senior Western officials Foreign Policy spoke to in October on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

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Foreign Policy quoted multiple senior sources as saying that governments including Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Hungary, Austria, and Poland have all been using their positions within the EU to press a number of policy lines and calls for policy change that align directly with the interests of Assad’s regime. Beyond EU chambers, some of these governments have also convened select groups of experts to brainstorm creative ways to bypass restrictive EU regulations and sanctions in order to “do more” in Syria.

As increasing numbers of Syrian refugees—along with Lebanese migrants—began fleeing toward Southern Europe this year, these European states began arguing in favour of the EU significantly expanding its definition of “early recovery” to move away from limited and localized development work undertaken within a humanitarian setting and open the door to donor-funded activities that would amount to de facto reconstruction, according to multiple European officials, FP added.

Several member states also issued private complaints about EU leaders’ consistent mention of Assad regime crimes in public statements on Syria. In their view, making a point to publicly describe these crimes was both unnecessary and an impediment to those keen on exploring an improvement of ties with Damascus. Variations on “Assad won; it’s time to move on” have become common refrains from these member states during Syria consultations, as has criticism of EU sanctions and other “unilateral coercive measures” against Syria—a phrase that refers to sanctions but is reserved almost entirely to sanctions critics.

The magazine concluded that refugees are not returning to Syria controlled by the very regime whose brutality they fled in the first place. Thus, the policies of apologism and appeasement increasingly being embraced by certain governments within the EU are not only immoral, but they are also illogical.

It added if the European governments fear refugees so deeply, these governments ought to realize that letting Assad off the hook will only lead to even greater refugee flows than before. But as history has so often shown, politics can be blind to the truth.

 

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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