Zovko on the impact of EU humanitarian sanctions in Syria at conference of EPP Working group for intercultural and religious dialogue

Split, 11 November 2020

The EPP Group intercultural and religious dialogue organised a Conference on “Humanitarian exceptions to EU sanctions against Syria: why they don’t work out”. As Vice-chair of AFET and active member of the working group, Željana Zovko was invited to share her reflections on the matter.

Zovko pointed at the heavy impact of the armed conflict on the Syrian population and at the clear position of the European Union on the region. She said that the EU is the biggest donor of humanitarian aid and that over €20 billion has been allocated by the EU and its Member States since the start of the conflict in 2011. 

At the other side, Zovko underlined the restrictive measures of the EU targeting individuals responsible for the violent repression of the civilian population in Syria, as well as individuals or entities associated with them. These restrictive measures however also affect the humanitarian aid workers on the ground. Although the EU reacted to this situation with the creation of exemptions of the sanctions, Zovko highlighted that the process to obtain these licenses for a derogation is confusing, time-consuming, and costly for most humanitarian workers. In addition, she stressed that the cultural and religious minorities, are even double-hit. “The flow of resources has declined and financial aid to the Syrian refugees is only rarely directed to Christian minorities.” Zovko stated. 

As a solution-based approach, Zovko called on all stakeholders to share their experiences and to map the main pitfalls. Based on this information, humanitarian organizations should be assisted in the preparation of the application for licences and funding. Moreover, Zovko stressed the need for continued dialogue at the international level. 

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