From March 12 to 14 Brussels hosted the third international donor conference of the European Union on Syria under the motto "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region". Formally, it was announced that the meeting focused on the issue of assisting "millions of Syrians", as well as states and communities that gave them asylum.
Apart from the EU countries, the conference brought together Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Among the participants were also delegates from "hundreds" of Syrian, regional and international humanitarian agencies. However, not a single representative of the legitimate Syrian government was invited. And there is a reason for that.
Those taking part in the "donor meeting" talked primarily about the distribution of financial flows that are allegedly coming from the EU for the needs of the Syrians. Conference participants promised to make financial contributions. Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan provided calculations of what they require to provide the refugees with temporary residence in their territories. International humanitarian organizations praised their own projects seeking donor funding for them.
Thus, fitting out people who are going through hard times in Syria and refugee camps is a profitable business project for the European Union. There's really a lot of money at stake. During the second Brussels conference in April last year, sponsors allocated 4.3 billion dollars (3.5 billion euros) of "humanitarian assistance" to Syria.
Another 3.5 billion dollars (2.9 billion euros) were pledged for the period of 2019-2020. International financial institutions, such as the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development approved some 21.2 billion dollars (17.2 billion euros) in loans and credits for the period of 2018-2020.
So, what should have been discussed at the current "donor conference"? In theory, the first issue to be touched upon should be a relief program to restore Syria's national economy, as well as the means to support Syrian refugees seeking to return to their native land. It is clear that decisions of this kind cannot be taken without involving the legitimate government of Syria. At the same time, no one was even going to invite representatives of the Syrian authorities to the conference.
According to the German DPA news agency, the Syrian state is an outsider in the eyes of the EU. And nothing will change unless President Bashar al-Assad leaves office as the head of state.
In fact, the EU donor conference can only "freeze" the problems in Syria and around it. This conforms fully to the European Union's strategy on Syria adopted back in 2017. According to the document, saving lives is associated with "addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians across the country in a timely, effective, efficient and principled manner." It is also necessary to promote democracy, human rights and the sustainability of Syria's civil society.
The language is vague and hypocritical. The EU strategy assumes that refugee supplies has been carried out only in their camps. States that have harbored Syrian citizens in their territories receive money to distribute it among their humanitarian agencies. In practice, the "Syrian money" is used to develop infrastructure in the Turkish, Jordanian and Lebanese communities.
And what else did you expect, the European Union believes: new schools, nursery schools, hospitals, and roads – the population of neighboring countries needs to see what it gains thanks to the presence of refugees. The people of Syria itself are only provided with bare essentials not to die of hunger and disease – short commons, medicines and surgical ligature. But the EU strategy does not provide for the creation of new jobs, lending programs, assistance in training qualified personnel, so that Syrians can become sustainably self-sufficient.
Thus, it becomes apparent that the "donor conference" actually masks the European Union's refusal to assist Syria in restoring its national economy. The conference demonstrates how Syria is being deprived of the possibility to independently develop by means of the "penalties" that have been imposed since 2011. The country's post-war challenges are used to blackmail it blatantly.
The EU strategies are replete with terms and clauses. "If there’s a political solution in Syria that leads to free elections, then we are ready to take on the responsibility of reconstruction", German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas formulates the EU's stance. And Syria’s opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) leader Naser al-Hariri has unequivocally stated that the refugees will return to Syria only if Assad is overthrown.
Syria is not comfortable with the "if-then" formula. The government is responsible for the lives of 18 million people who need electricity and running water, houses and apartments, hospitals and schools. People can't wait. Earlier this year, the Syrian government extended preferential loans to the farmers and purchased planting material for them in order to complete the planting season to schedule.
Things are looking up; the Syrians are a hardworking nation. But there is a lot of things that do not work out due to the lack of financial resources, and sanctions imposed by the EU and the US inhibit trade with Syria.
In cold months there is not enough gas to cook and petcoke delivery interruptions for stoves and generators. Meanwhile, the US military seized Syrian oil and gas fields east of the Euphrates and blocked access to national natural resources.
EU sanctions prohibiting oil and gas supplies to Syria resulted in a situation where shipping agents refuse to provide tanker freight services, and insurance companies do not want to insure cargoes for Syria. Syria is being strangled with "unilateral punitive sanctions" that are even condemned by the UN. And still, this issue is not on the agenda of the current "donor conference".
However, Syria does not trust Europe any longer. Syria is aided by Russia, China, India and Iran. The Arab States, excluding Saudi Arabia, want Syria to regain its place in the Arab League. Along with that, the future of this country depends primarily on the Syrians themselves. Aware of this, hundreds of refugees from Jordan and Lebanon return home every day. Despite all the difficulties awaiting them at home.
Well, and the European well-wishers continue splitting billions in Brussels.