EU–Syria relations

Authored by: Anis Nacrour , Jouanah Ghori

Routledge Handbook of EU–Middle East Relations

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367330767
eBook ISBN: 9780429317873
Adobe ISBN:


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From the outset, EU–Syria relations have been at best tedious, with their substance inevitably depending on regional politics. In the past 25 years “Stop and Go” could best describe those relations. Three phases can be outlined: (1) 1995–2000: The potentials. The EU’s willingness to progress was nevertheless met with Syrian reluctance. (2) 2000–2005: The hope. President Bashar Al-Assad’s initial openness to reforming Syria’s political life (Damascus spring), economy and institutions incited the EU to re-engage itself. Initial dynamics were halted though after the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005. (3) 2008–2011: Reset and Stop. The launch of the Union for the Mediterranean in 2008 allowed for a new round of intense negotiations aiming at a bilateral action plan for political and economic reform. The repression of the Syrian revolt, the burst of the civil war in 2011 and the subsequent humanitarian crisis have left the EU in a second-tier position among other international actors. This chapter will take stock of the past and also analyse how the EU and its Member States have related to the UN-led framework as well as other diplomatic initiatives (Astana-process), characterising a fourth period which is locked in stalemate.

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