Post-conflict Syria: Which EU civilian capabilities for reconstruction?


Paradoxically, international diplomatic efforts aimed at a peace agreement for Syria sped up rapidly following Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Spurred also by the success of the nuclear talks with Iran, a serious peace process got underway in Geneva in the framework of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). Whereas the EU participates in this ‘contact group’, it wields little political power, as it has ‘no dog in the fight’. US and Russian leadership will be essential for re-establishing a credible cessation of hostilities. A ceasefire agreement is essential for the Geneva talks to lead to a political agreement on transition.

Building on these assumptions, the first conflict prevention and peacebuilding policy forum of the ‘EU-CIVCAP’ project, hosted by CEPS on May 11th, aimed to reflect on the implementation of a peace deal for Syria if and when the Geneva diplomatic process produces an agreement. Antje Herrberg (CEO of mediatEUr), Pierre Himont (Senior Associate at Carnegie Europe and former Executive Secretary General of the EEAS) and Mazen Darwish (President of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression) agreed that the transition process would have to fulfil the benchmarks of a new and democratic constitution, followed by free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in line with international standards.

The EU’s material support in implementing a future peace agreement will be critical to mustering the Marshall Plan-scale aid that Syria and the Syrian people need for a successful transition. The EU has many elements to offer: lifting of sanctions, political recognition, technical expertise, funding for reconstruction, long-term development assistance, creating trade and investment opportunities, and so on. Mr. Darwish underlined that the EU’s support in assuring accountability for crimes committed during the war will be key to the reconciliation of fractured communities. Drawing on the lessons of peacebuilding, Ms. Herrberg stated that it is important to establish facts on the ground; that stabilisation and transition in Syria have to go hand-in-hand; that the local agents should be empowered; and that the diaspora ought to be involved. The speakers agreed that implementation of any peace deal for Syria will be a generational project.

The EU-CIVCAP project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 653227. For more information, see