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Does the EU have a Syria strategy?

March 8th 2018 - 17:09

To fly from Nicosia to the Syrian capital of Damascus takes only about half an hour. From Berlin or Paris it's about four hours. The Syrian war is thus right at Europe's very doorstep. Yet, the European Union's strategy towards Syria little reflects the conflict's proximity. Nor has it helped to advance Europe's strategic interests in the region at large, given the EU's near-invisibility in the various peace talks.

A fresh and more geopolitically minded approach could pay more dividends for the EU.

The key lies in engaging in 'linkage politics' with Russia, Iran and Turkey – the key powers that influence events on the ground. This means mobilising real leverage that Europeans have in other areas so as to incentivise hard-nosed actors in Moscow, Tehran and Ankara to agree to the EU's vision of a democratic, stable and prosperous Syria.

For the EU, this means that it needs to articulate its veritable strategic interests in Syria, identify where it can truly exercise leverage, and then use this in pursuit of its desired vision. Only then does it stand a chance to turn its country strategy into reality.

This is what Willem Oosterveld argues in an article for Brussels-based EU Observer.

Photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki
Willem Oosterveld is a Strategic Analyst at HCSS. He holds degrees in political science, law and history, having studied in Amsterdam, Leiden, Paris, New York and Harvard. A former Fulbright scholar, he earned a PhD in the history of international law from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.