European sanctions: an instrument for fighting repression in Syria

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European sanctions: an instrument for fighting repression in Syria

On 17 February 2020, the foreign ministers of the European Union unanimously adopted fresh sanctions against eight Syrian businesspersons and two Syrian entities because they are financially supporting the Syrian regime and the violent repression against the Syrian people.

With these measures, the European Union affirms its determination to fight the practices of the Syrian regime and the people financing it that fuel the war economy in Syria (laundering, corruption, expropriation, smuggling, extortion) to the detriment of the civilian population.

In supporting the war economy, these actors being sanctioned by the European Union provide crucial financial support to the Syrian regime and help it to block the political process led by the United Nations. Therefore, it is in the direct interest of these businesspersons for the status quo to continue in Syria and the war, which has lasted more than nine years and claimed the lives of over 400,000 civilians, to go on.

France and the European Union support the political process being conducted under the aegis of the United Nations, which remains the only path to lasting resolution of the Syrian crisis.

Who are the businesspersons and entities being sanctioned?

The fresh sanctions that were unanimously adopted on 17 February 2020 by the members of the European Union concern businesspersons and entities (industrial group, financial holding) making large profits from the war economy in Syria by diverting Syria’s economic resources to the sole benefit of the Syrian regime.

Some of these individuals and entities that are close to the Syrian regime were implicated in smuggling activities with terrorist groups designated as such by the United Nations Security Council, including Daesh.

Some of these individuals and entities have also been involved in real estate speculation, on expropriated land, in breach of land rights of the displaced civilian population.

On 21 January 2019, the European Union adopted sanctions against eleven Syrian businesspersons and five Syrian entities involved in a luxury real estate project to the benefit of the Syrian regime and to the detriment of the Syrian population’s rights.

What do European sanctions target?

In May 2011, the European Union adopted targeted restrictive measures against the Syrian regime to stop its violent repression. The European Union’s sanctions target the Syrian regime’s finance networks.

As a priority, they focus on targeted individual measures against individuals or entities directly linked to repression or the financing of the Syrian regime;

• They also concern specific sectors of the Syrian economy at the core of finance networks of the Syrian regime (armament, goods and technology used for internal repression, crude oil imports from Syria).

A total of 70 entities and 273 individuals are targeted by EU restrictive measures in Syria.

Do European sanctions hinder humanitarian assistance?

After more than nine years of war in Syria, the Syrian regime continues to be the main cause of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, where 11 million people still require emergency humanitarian assistance.

The EU restrictive measures regime provides for a large number of exemptions and derogations regarding humanitarian activities (purchase of petroleum products, financial and banking activities, etc.) when these activities aim to provide humanitarian assistance in Syria or help the civilian population in Syria.

Syria is not subject to a general embargo of any kind. Food and other essential goods and medical and health products are not subject to EU measures.

France and the European Union provide very significant humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.

Nationally France devoted nearly €100 million in 2018-2019 to the Syrian civilian population, implemented by more than 30 French, international and local NGOs, the United Nations organizations (including UNICEF and WHO) and our agency Expertise France via more than 100 projects.

Updated: June 2020