Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

Fruitless cherry picking? EU support for the Syrian opposition

28 Jul 2021 - 09:33
Source: A man holding an opposition flag gestures during a demonstration against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and presidential elections, in the opposition-held Idlib, Syria May 26, 2021. © Reuters

This policy brief examines the EU’s engagement and relationship with Syria’s main political opposition umbrella, the Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (Etilaf), which was founded in late 2012. It discusses the EU’s engagement strategies with the Etilaf and their impact on its development in the context of the Syrian conflict. The brief highlights that the EU did not substantiate the international legitimacy it granted the organisation early on during the conflict with policies that would have allowed it to expand its domestic legitimacy and capabilities. This policy contributed to developments in which the Etilaf rapidly lost its original potential. While the Etilaf today faces a range of structural and operational challenges that need to be addressed, the brief nevertheless recommends EU institutions and Member States to increase their support for the Etilaf and the Interim Government linked with it, if a number of conditions can be met. Such support will help maintain and develop these bodies into a viable centre of political opposition to the Assad regime. Practically speaking, this objective can be pursued by piloting conditional EU support to areas of northwestern and northern Syria that are nominally under the control of the Interim Government. It also requires building a partnership with Turkey to jointly support local Syrian administration(s) in the same areas

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