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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
Syria

EU and Syria

The European Union (EU) suspended all its bilateral cooperation with the Government of Syria in May 2011, following the escalation of violence and unacceptable human rights situation. In parallel, the EU has adopted specific and targeted restrictive measures (sanctions). Syria’s participation in regional programmes and the provision of loans and technical assistance through the European Investment Bank (EIB) was also ceased. Given the volatile situation, there is no multi-annual programming of EU assistance in Syria. Nevertheless, the EU maintains direct support to the Syrian population, both inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries impacted by the conflict such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey via annual Special Measures, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis and the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

The EU Strategy for Syria was adopted on 14 March 2017, accompanied by the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on Syria on 3 April 2017 and 16 April 2018. The latest Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on Syria were adopted on 14 October 2019 and endorsed by the European Council on 17-18 October 2019.

EU assistance to the Syrian population

The EU and its Member States are the largest contributors to the international response to the Syrian conflict, having mobilised €24.9 billion since 2011 for humanitarian, stabilisation and resilience assistance to those affected by the conflict inside Syria and in the region. During this time, the EU has dedicated €1.8 billion to assistance inside Syria, both humanitarian (71%) and non-humanitarian (29%). The EU has been at the forefront of efforts to mobilise funds and keep the spotlight on Syria, having convened five international donor conferences in Brussels since 2017.

EU NEIGHBOURS South

The European Neighbourhood Instrument

The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) was one of the main EU financing instruments to address the medium to longer-term needs of the population affected by the conflict for the period 2014-2020. The new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) will frame the EU’s cooperation for the period 2021-2027.

In Syria, EU cooperation aims at supporting the resilience of the population and paving the way for transition and post-conflict recovery. Assistance is provided in sectors such as education, livelihoods, civil society capacity building, health, accountability and transitional justice. EU support through the ENI is provided, as much as feasible, all over Syria and delivered through United Nations agencies, international and Syrian NGOs as well as EU Member State agencies, in complementarity to humanitarian aid.

€349.4 million has been mobilised through the ENI for inside Syria since the start of the conflict in 2011.

On 9 February 2021, the European Commission adopted a Joint Communication on the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood, that will help guide EU policy and programming for the coming years.

The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis

Since 2015, a significant proportion of non-humanitarian assistance to help Syria’s neighbours coping with the refugee crisis and to assist refugees from Syria has been channelled through the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (EUTF Syria). The EUTF Syria has brought about a rapid and integrated EU response to the crisis, merging funding from various EU financing instruments and contributions from 21 EU Member States, Turkey and the United Kingdom into one single, flexible and responsive mechanism. Its total budget amounts to €2.3 billion (with €2.2 billion already allocated to concrete actions), benefitting over 7 million people primarily in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

As the crisis became protracted, the needs have changed and the EUTF Syria has evolved from providing early recovery assistance focused on basic needs to equipping refugees and local communities with sustainable tools and skills for greater self-reliance. It focuses on strengthening self-reliance of refugees and vulnerable people in host communities, providing access to education and training, protection and social cohesion, health, water and sanitation as well as job creation and integration into labour markets. Particular attention is paid to the specific needs of women, children and youth. The EUTF Syria is also supporting host governments in strengthening their national systems for public service delivery to meet refugee and local community needs in the longer term.

Brussels Conferences on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”

Since 2017, the annual Brussels Conferences on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” co-chaired by the EU and the United Nations, have brought together the international community in support of UN efforts in favour of a political solution to the conflict in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254: Brussels I Conference (5 April 2017), Brussels II Conference (24-25 April 2018) and Brussels III Conference (12-14 March 2019) and Brussels IV Conference (22-30 June 2020). The Brussels V Conference takes place on 29 and 30 March 2021.

They have allowed the donor community to pledge vital support for the Syrian population and neighbouring countries hosting refugees from Syria.

The Conferences have also offered a platform to bring representatives from Syrian, regional and international non-governmental and civil society organisations together with policy makers during the “Days of Dialogue”.

Other financing instruments

The EU has mobilised over €1 billion of humanitarian assistance to the population affected by the Syrian crisis inside Syria in 2014-2020.

Syria benefits from Erasmus+ with 428 Syrian students, professors and administrative staff travelled to Europe and 44 Europeans counterparts travelled to Syria between 2015 and 2020.

Other EU thematic instruments active in responding to the crisis inside Syria are:

Further information

Factsheets available to download

Key documents

For specific information (programme level), see below