Answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Ashton on behalf of the Commission
Several factors indicate that the EU ban on imports from the Syrian oil sector is having a serious effect since the Syrian regime is heavily dependent on income related to oil revenues, thus contributing to the objective of the EU policy to pressure the Syrian regime to stop its brutal repression against the Syrian people.
Before the prohibition of import of Syrian oil into the EU, the EU accounted for a major part of its total oil exports (approximately 90 %). The sanctions have reportedly led to a reduction in production capacity of 40 % (production capacity in August 2011 was approximately 350.000 b/d of low quality crude oil). At the same time, Syria is facing full storage reservoirs. Although it cannot be excluded that Syria may find new markets for a part of its production, its political isolation, including in the Arab world, and technical difficulties e.g. finding shipping and (re-)insurance companies without passing through EU companies, make this very difficult. Circumvention would amount to a prohibited activity, persons or entities knowingly participating in such activities could face criminal charges in the EU. The EU furthermore in its relations with other countries has actively invited relevant third countries to align themselves with the measures imposed by the EU.
Oil revenues constituted a very important source of revenues for the Syrian Government and as such it also contributed to the economic development of the country. However, the direct effect of the measure on the Syrian civilian population, which profited only to a very limited extent from these oil related revenues, is not expected to be significant. The EU takes very seriously the risk of adverse impacts of its measures on the civilian population, and it will continue to monitor this.
In light of the above, the EU believes this measure is targeted and effective.
The prohibition on the import of oil from Syria is part of a wider set of measures against Syria, which again is part of the EU’s integrated and comprehensive approach. As the situation in Syria has developed, so has the extent of the EU restrictive measures, with further measures and further targets being added throughout the summer and autumn. Whether or not these measures should be further reinforced in the future, and which measures should be considered in this case, will depend on developments in Syria. There is no prohibition on the export of oil to Syria in view of the desire not to hurt the civilian population, although it should be noted that, with three major oil companies listed, exports of oil to Syria are already restricted.
In view of the different circumstances regarding each individual country in respect of which the EU has imposed sanctions or might consider imposing sanctions, it is impossible to say whether or not in other cases where governments use violence against their own population, the imposition of an oil embargo would be the most appropriate measure. In general, in its sanctions policies the EU aims at taking restrictive measures in the light of its policy objectives and taking into account the need to target these measures, the effectiveness of the measures, and respect for fundamental human rights and the international obligations of the Union.