Opening speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the Third Brussels Conference “Supporting the future of Syria and the region”
“>Asmaa just told us, the people of Syria have cried enough. And yet they have not lost hope, in spite of almost a decade of war.In these years, we have stood by their side, we have worked with Syrians of all backgrounds and from all walks of life. The young Syrians who managed to study, to get a degree like her, after they had lost everything they had. The human rights defenders, those who provide the most basic services in the refugee camps or inside Syria.
They are Syria. The present and the future of Syria belong to them. This week, we have brought them and their stories to Brussels, to the international community. We have decided to begin this Conference with their voice, to make it heard, and to bring it to the table of decision makers, to our table.
The people of Syria ask for a country where each and every one of them can find their place. An inclusive Syria, a sovereign and united Syria, a democratic Syria, a reconciled Syria. A place that every single Syrian citizen can call home.
This is also what we all want, collectively, no matter the differences among us. This goal cannot be achieved militarily. It requires a negotiated political solution among Syrian parties, which takes into account the great diversity and richness of Syria’s society. A solution that is not only about power-politics, but first and foremost about people.
For this reason, we believe that a solution to the Syrian crisis can only come from the intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva, mediated by the United Nations. Through the years, and in spite of all setbacks, Geneva has always proven to be the only inclusive platform, where all Syrians can have a say.
Sustainable peace lies with the UN Security Council Resolution 2254. Let me thank Geir Pedersen [UN Special Envoy for Syria] for putting the Resolution at the core of his work, and for investing again in the role of civil society and women in particular. We are also here to fully support his difficult, but necessary work.
Because many years after the Resolution was adopted, the goal should remain the same: a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned political process, facilitated by the United Nations, to establish an inclusive and non-sectarian governance for a united Syria. The Resolution sets up a number of steps, from the drafting of a new constitution, to free and fair elections under UN supervision.
This is what we are all trying to work for, consistently, and this is also the main reason why we are here. All of us must use all our leverage, different leverages that are gathered around this big table to relaunch the Geneva negotiations and put an end to the war in Syria.
Because freezing the conflict at its current stage is not a solution. As one Syrian woman told us yesterday, Syria might get stuck in a situation of “no war and no peace”. Ceasefires are important and they need to be respected and guaranteed but they also need a broader political framework, especially if we want to avoid terrorism to return in new forms in the near future.
I have personally asked the three Astana guarantors, who are here with us today, to strongly support the establishment of the constitutional committee and the confidence-building measures between parties, including the release of detainees. We all have to work for these efforts to lead to a positive conclusion.
It would be a starting point. But more steps will then have to be taken towards an inclusive, democratic and reconciled Syria. We have heard it from the voices of Syrians themselves and we know it from our own history. Justice and reconciliation are the two sides of the same coin: one cannot happen without the other.
Because what Syria will need is the reconstruction of its social fabric, not just of its physical infrastructures. Let me say that we, Europeans, want and are ready to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria and we will do so in the moment when a political transition is underway, towards the inclusive and democratic country that Syrians deserve and that would allow security and stability to be sustainable over time.
Just days ago I discussed with tech leaders from all around the world – gathered in the Global Tech Panel – about how we could give, for instance, Syrian youth the technological training they need to compete in the digital age. We are collectively already investing so much to support education of Syrians – girls and boys; it is always the best investment, as so many of them have reminded us in our dialogues yesterday.
We want Syrians to go back to their land and build it up again. For this to happen, they will have to know that they will be safe, that they will not face arbitrary detention and conscription, that their properties and their liberties will be respected. Are these conditions in place? It is not for us but for the UN agencies and the Syrian refugees themselves to answer this question. What is for us collectively is to make sure that returns happen in a voluntary, safe dignified manner and that we help building the conditions for this to happen.
Let me thank the governments and the local communities, the people in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as in Iraq, Egypt and all other countries that have welcomed and hosted Syrians over so many years.
The message of this Conference is clear: the European Union and the international community stand by your side to not only support the Syrian refugees but also to strongly support the local communities of your countries. Our pledges speak for themselves.
The European Union and its Member States, together, have invested almost €17 billion for Syrian refugees and their host communities since the beginning of the war. The European Union will continue to honour its commitments for the Syria crisis and the Syrian people.
Therefore I am proud today to announce that the European Union is confirming its pledge of €560 million for 2019 and is committing to the same amount for 2020. We have the ambition to maintain the same levels for 2021, giving continuity to our support.
This aid will support the Syrian population inside Syria and in the neighbouring countries, in particular in Jordan and in Lebanon. But it will also support host communities and the long term economic recovery needed by the host countries.
In addition to this sum, I would like to confirm the European Union contribution of €1.5 billion to the second tranche of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. This makes the European Union the most relevant donor in the region.
I would also like to stress the importance of some of the non-financial assistance the European Union provides. For example, for Jordan, the derogation to rules of origin of the European market will stimulate the economy and create jobs for both Syrians and Jordanian citizens. I would also like to underline the impact of the action of the European financial institutions which are involved in a wide diversity of concrete projects in the region to boost growth.
This is an example that I think we can collectively put together to not only help, again as I said, Syrians but also the countries in the region.
But beyond the pledge, what is essential is that we help relaunch the UN led political process.
Some are starting to believe that the future of Syria will inevitably be that of a divided country, a country with limited sovereignty, an insecure country, a non-democratic and sectarian country.
I believe this would be in nobody’s interest. The interest we all share, and that all Syrians share, is that a peace process is leading to a sovereign, united, democratic, inclusive and reconciled Syria. We are here to contribute to this. This is what brings us here.
Let me finish on a personal note. This is the Third Brussels Conference [on the future of Syria and the region]. We had one in London before and three in Kuwait. Let me recognise and thank our Kuwaiti friends for having initiated this process and sustained it over time. But this is the 7th year we gather to mobilise political and financial support of the international community to the Syrian people and the region.
Today is the birthday of a special woman that chairs the Women Advisory Board. Yesterday, she told us that the best gift we could give her birthday, is that next year, she can invite us to celebrate her birthday in Syria, in a peaceful Syria. I think we are here today to answer to this call and to try and make her birthday present happen between now and next year.
Thank you all and welcome to the Third Brussels Conference on the future of Syria and the region.