Conflict in Syria: Trigger factors and the EU response

15-01-2016

Since its beginnings in 2011, the conflict in Syria has cost more than 250 000 lives, and over 4 million Syrians have been forced to seek security in neighbouring countries – primarily in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon – and Europe. A further 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria. The rise of ISIL/Da'esh and other jihadist groups has aggravated the situation. However, despite the humanitarian and security crisis, progress towards a United Nations (UN) negotiated political settlement of the conflict has been slow, mostly due to disagreement over President Bashar al-Assad's future. The adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on 18 December 2015 – setting out a roadmap for a peace process in Syria with a clear transition timeline – offers new hope, but the real test will be in the implementation. The European Union laid down its approach to the crisis in Syria, as well as responding to the ISIL/Da'esh threat, in its Regional Strategy for Syria and Iraq, which is based on three main pillars: humanitarian assistance, prevention of regional spill-overs and fighting terrorism. While certain Member States have decided to join the US-led military operations in Syria, the EU has abstained from direct military involvement. Instead, it has proven to be a valued partner in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and support for the activities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). For its part, the European Parliament has focused on addressing the implications of the refugee crisis inside the European Union, strengthening EU humanitarian assistance in Iraq and Syria and aid to vulnerable communities, and improving the EU response to the terrorist threat posed by ISIL/Da'esh.

Since its beginnings in 2011, the conflict in Syria has cost more than 250 000 lives, and over 4 million Syrians have been forced to seek security in neighbouring countries – primarily in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon – and Europe. A further 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria. The rise of ISIL/Da'esh and other jihadist groups has aggravated the situation. However, despite the humanitarian and security crisis, progress towards a United Nations (UN) negotiated political settlement of the conflict has been slow, mostly due to disagreement over President Bashar al-Assad's future. The adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on 18 December 2015 – setting out a roadmap for a peace process in Syria with a clear transition timeline – offers new hope, but the real test will be in the implementation. The European Union laid down its approach to the crisis in Syria, as well as responding to the ISIL/Da'esh threat, in its Regional Strategy for Syria and Iraq, which is based on three main pillars: humanitarian assistance, prevention of regional spill-overs and fighting terrorism. While certain Member States have decided to join the US-led military operations in Syria, the EU has abstained from direct military involvement. Instead, it has proven to be a valued partner in the delivery of humanitarian assistance and support for the activities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). For its part, the European Parliament has focused on addressing the implications of the refugee crisis inside the European Union, strengthening EU humanitarian assistance in Iraq and Syria and aid to vulnerable communities, and improving the EU response to the terrorist threat posed by ISIL/Da'esh.