Syria: Council response to the crisis

The conflict in Syria, and the suffering it is causing the Syrian people, is the world's largest humanitarian disaster, with no parallel in recent history.

13 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance 
million Syrians have fled the country

The EU has taken a broad approach in its response to the Syrian crisis, focusing its efforts on areas in which it can complement member states' activities. 

Council response to the Syrian crisis - key developments


16 people added to sanctions list


Sanctions against the regime extended by one year


€5.6 billion in aid pledged at international conference


Council adopts EU strategy on Syria


Sanctions against four high-ranking military officials

Its objective is to bring an end to the conflict and enable the Syrian people to live in peace in their own country.

The EU's commitment to helping bring about peace in the region is outlined in the:

  • EU strategy on Syria (April 2017)
  • EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the ISIL/Da'esh threat (March 2015)

The EU is the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Syria and the region. Over €9.4 billion in aid has been allocated by the EU and its member states since the start of the conflict.

Since 2011, the Council has adopted sanctions against individuals responsible for the violent repression of the civilian population.

EU strategy on Syria

On 3 April 2017, the Council adopted the EU strategy on Syria. This strategy is part of the EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the ISIL/Da'esh threat.

The EU's strategic objectives in Syria focus on six key areas:

  • ending the war through a genuine political transition
  • promoting a meaningful and inclusive transition in Syria
  • saving lives by addressing the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Syrians
  • promoting democracy, human rights and freedom of speech
  • promoting accountability for war crimes
  • supporting the resilience of the Syrian population and Syrian society

EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the Da'esh threat

The presence of Da'esh and other terrorist groups in Syria poses a serious threat to the country, the broader region and the international community as a whole. 

The Council, in its conclusions of October 2014, called on the High Representative to develop a comprehensive regional strategy for Syria, Iraq and the Da'esh threat.

The EU regional strategy for Syria and Iraq as well as the ISIL/Da'esh threat was adopted in March 2015.

The strategy aims to:

  • support efforts by the Global Coalition to counter Da'esh
  • reduce the influx of foreign terrorist fighters, funds and weapons to Da'esh
  • prevent regional spill-overs and improve border security
  • provide humanitarian aid and international protection to those affected

On 23 May 2016, the Council reviewed the implementation of the strategy so far and adopted conclusions.

Humanitarian response

The European Union and its member states have provided more than €9 billion in aid since the beginning of the conflict to help those who have fled the war, both within and outside Syria.

The EU regional trust fund in response to the Syrian crisis (the Madad Fund) has now reached over €900 million in combined funding from the EU and member states.

On 5 April 2017, the EU and international donors pledged €5.6 billion in aid for 2017 to meet the massive needs of Syrians. The donors also pledged € 3.47 billion in aid for 2018-2020. The pledges were made at an international conference held in Brussels.

In 2016, the EU and its member states pledged more than €3 billion to assist the Syrian people. The pledges were made at the 'Supporting Syria and the region' conference, held in London in February 2016,

On 2 October 2016, the EU began an urgent humanitarian initiative for Aleppo. This was in response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground. The aim is to allow humanitarian organisations to do their work and civilians to be rescued and protected. 

Refugee crisis

The EU and its member states are also intensifying efforts to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy. 

Restrictive measures

In 2011, the Council decided on a series of autonomous restrictive measures.

They target individuals responsible for the violent repression of the civilian population in Syria, as well as individuals or entities associated with them.

These sanctions were last extended on 29 May 2017, until 1 June 2018.

255 individuals and 67 entities are now targeted by these EU sanctions.

As part of its security response and the fight against terrorism, the EU also implements UN Security Council sanctions freezing the funds of persons and entities associated with Usama bin Laden, the Al-Qaida network, the Taliban and ISIL/Da'esh.

On 20 September 2016, the Council adopted a legal framework which allows the EU to apply sanctions autonomously to ISIL/Da'esh and Al-Qaida and persons and entities associated with or supporting them.