The EU’s view on the new UN Resolution 2042 (2012) regarding Syria

One might wonder why the fall of the Al-Assad regime delays. Some observers say that “the West is happy for him [Bashar Al-Assad] to stay in power so long as bloodshed ends because it fears the Sunni Muslim opposition is a threat to Israeli and Lebanese security and to the safety of Christians in Syria.”

Syria is composed by a very complex population. While 90.3% of Syrians are of the Arab ethnic group, only 9.7% are Kurds, Armenians and other minorities. Sunni Muslim is the largest religion group with 74% while other Muslim groups – Shiite Alawites and Druze – are only 16%, and various Christian groups are around 10%. The population of Syria is approximately 22.5 millions (read more about Syria here). The president Bashar Al-Assad’s family belongs to the Shiite Alawite. Al-Assad came to power in 2000, as the successor of his father who had died.

Following the Arab Spring which started in Tunisia and spread to several other Arab countries, the anti-government in Syria took the advantage to protest against the Al-Assad regime, calling for democratisation of the country and the stepping down of Al-Assad. The government and its security forces responded with use of excessive force against protesters. The protesters began arming themselves and the clashes between the governmental security forces and the anti-government groups have caused very serious security concerns in Syria. While some countries have been insisting that hard measures must be adopted in order to stop the violence exercised by the Syrian government, some others prefer softer means. The position of the EU was very clear when it announced its possible sanctions that would be an asset freeze and visa ban, or the suspension of some aid by the EU to Syria. On May 9, 2011 the European Council announced its decision to impose an embargo on arms exports to Syria and on equipment which could be used for repression against the population, as well as a visa ban and an assets freeze.[i]

After over a year of crisis and with a fragile ceasefire in place, on April 14 the Security Council of the United Nations finally agreed on a resolution (Resolution 2042 (2012)) to send observers to Syria to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement. Six observers, which will later be increased to 30 in total, arrived to Syria the day after, on April 15. It has taken time to reach an agreement and to agree on the wording of the resolution because Russia and China have been delaying the process by using their veto against earlier draft resolutions in February. In order to get the resolution finally agreed upon it had to have a softer approach, and for example change the word ’demands’ to the softer ‘requests’.

The resolution includes, in addition to a condemning of the violence and widespread breaches of human rights, a six-point peace-proposal (the Annan Plan) made by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States of which Syria is a founding member. It states Syria’s commitment to stop the fighting, ensure free movement for journalists, respect the freedom of peaceful demonstration and ensure timely humanitarian aid. It gives the authorisation to send the before mentioned 30 unarmed observers to monitor and report from the ceasefire and Syria’s implementation of the six-point proposal.

When these kinds of situations are reported in the news it seems that it is always the national foreign ministers who make comments about the situation. This is probably because there is no foreign minister of the EU, and the states have their own national interests. Instead, the one who speaks for the EU is Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Catherine Ashton was appointed to this new position introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in December 2010 in accordance with Article 18 of the TEU. Catherine Ashton has already expressed her concerns about the situation in Syria before, and she is welcoming the resolution of the Security Council. In her press release issued on April 17, she expressed support to Kofi Annan and his plan, emphasising that the Union will continue to support the UN and the Arab League and confirming that the Union is willing and ready to assist with the fulfilment of the resolution. She states that the sanctions already applied by the Union, e.g. the suspension of cooperation, loan operations and technical assistance to Syria, will continue as long as necessary. For the EU to be able to impose a sanction against a third country the decision has to be made by Council. According to Article 215 TFEU measures of this kind are adopted by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, on a joint proposal from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (Catherine Ashton) and the Commission. The Council shall also inform the European Parliament. As required by the Treaty, Ashton (who takes part in the work of the Council as well) informed the MEPs on the current situation in Syria. She stressed that the Union is keen to enforce more sanctions, and revealed that the Union was ready to support the UN monitoring mission by providing helicopters and communication tools.

Moreover, Ashton expressed great personal support for Kofi Annan and emphasised that following his six-point plan and stopping the violence is the only way to get a peaceful, democratic Syria. In her statements Ashton has given the impression of a great personal commitment and strong beliefs, as showed by her resolute words: “This is not a matter of choice. The 6 point plan is not optional.” She harshly condemns the situation and shows that she and the whole Union are willing to assist in any way possible to end the fighting. Her final words reveal her commitment to fundamental rights and democracy: “Mr President and Honourable Members, the future of Syria belongs to the Syrian people. Their lives, their rights, their aspirations must be respected. Assad must now match his words with deeds. His people want freedom and peace and we must do everything possible to realize this goal.”

Finally, Ashton announced assistance for refugees and emphasised for the implementation of the Annan Plan. This plan calls for the release of prisoners, access for aid workers and press, free rein for the anti-government protests, and a “Syrian-led” process to address President Bashar Assad’s political future. In addition to the sanctions proposed against the Syrian government, the EU also pledged assistance of 23 million euros to support the refugees. However, the Annan-plan was heavily criticised because considered out-dated, and it has been on several occasions, violated. MEPs want the resignation of Bashar al-Assad and the appearance of him before the International Criminal Court.

[i] Pauline Dupont et al., The European Union faces the Arab spring of Syria (in French), 2011, available at (last access on 24 April 2012).


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Örebro Universitet (Sweden)
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3 Responses to The EU’s view on the new UN Resolution 2042 (2012) regarding Syria

  1. Marijela says:

    The fact that the international community has taken measures to “put an end” to the violence in Syria is a positive step in the right direction, harder and more direct measures should however be taken against the Bashar al-Assad regime. The United Nations Security Council has in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter agreed on Resolution 2042 (2012) and has sent observers to Syria, it is however important to keep in mind that the resolution has taken a soft approach. The fact that e.g. the term “demands” has been changed for the softer “requests” is a slap in the face to the people that have to live with the terror day in day out. It is furthermore shameful that the United Nations has waited for a whole year to take any measures at all, have they not learned anything from the horrific crimes committed in Rwanda and Srebrenica.

    The fact that hundreds of thousands of people are deprived some of their basic human rights is devastating. The European Union which prides itself with its democratic values, respect for human rights etc. (Article 2 TEU) and still just observes while people suffer, is to say the least contradictory. How many more people, fighting for their freedom and their human rights, should pay with their lives for the international community to take harder measures and to finally put an end to the violence? The sanctions that already have been taken by the European Council in accordance with Article 215 TFEU, i.e. the embargo on arms and equipment exports, a visa ban and an asset freeze, are not enough to end to the peoples suffering.

    There is a need for democratic transition in Syria. Hence, people should have the right to freely choose their leader. If one however takes a closer look at the situation in Syria, it is not hard to see that the people have been abandoned to their fate and one wonders why? Does the European Union and the International Community in general need to have an economic interest in order to take direct and harder measures and to see the seriousness of the situation?

    Only the future will show how it all will turn out, one thing is however clear, namely that the EU and the UN in particular have to take more effective measures against the current regime and help the people come to a peaceful solution, even if it means sending peace-keeping forces to Syria. Immediate action should be taken to end the violence, before it escalades into a full-fledged civil war. It is of utter importance that the United Nations shows that they truly are united and working for the same goals, against dictatorship regimes which are suppressing and killing innocent people. It is in other words of utter importance for the United Nations as well as the European Union to respect and protect the values they stand for.

  2. Samiya says:

    The Arab spring has pervaded the media since it started, discussion has been held on different levels and the opinions have been different amongst the actors on the international forum. Many, me as well, ask ourselves why is the Syrian revolution different from others? And why is the Bashar regime still in power? Europe is one of the international actors that still haven’t made any measures against the regime. After a year the UN decided to send observers to Syria to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement, this was agreed upon through the Resolution 2041 / 2012. Many of the factors the agreement stresses are important to establish a well functioning democratic state, however, the utility of this resolution are doubtful.
    EU is a regional organization composed of single states which have different interests and goals, so it is both legally and politically unstated that there isn’t a unanimous voice that either condemned’s or supports the Bashar regime. Catherine Ashton who is the spokes person for the EU in this question has welcomed the UN resolution. As the article states there are already sanctions against the Bashar regime in forms of suspension of cooperation, loan operations and technical assistance to Syria, however, to impose more sanctions against a third country Ashton cant makes dose decision without the approval of the Commission.
    In her speech Ashton was devoted to support the resulotion and the suggestions of peacemaking coming from Kofi Annan, but those she speaks for the whole EU? Would the single states field in the conflict? EU is not as homogeny as many outsiders think, it is compose of many different countries with different interest and to conceive on a question isn’t always easy. In this question, from a legal point of view, there aren’t any stats that disagree on the fact that Bashar is dictator and that the regime is using unlawful action against its people, however, the question is what the EU gain by involving themselves in the conflict? The Union law states that sanction can be made against a third country by qualified majority according to Art. 215TFEU. This deliberation is made by the Council in consultation with the Commission and Catherin Ashton who is the representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The process of decision making in this specific question once again demonstrates the Unions effort to involve all parts and that there isn’t only a single institution that takes the decision – from a legal point of view this gives all states the right to give their voice. But, weather EU is involved in this for political/ economical reasons or a legal factor which is to help the Syrian people is another question.

  3. Mathieu says:

    In my point of view, this article reveals the passive position, adopted by the European Union, about the lack of democracy in Syria. Although, the Syrian situation concerns the international scene, the European Union does not imply itself in the resolution and it seems just follow the United Nations’ position.
    Also, I think that this article highlights well, the economic interest that represent Syria. This is showed by the fact that the adoption of the resolution was delayed by the Russian and Chinese’s veto. Moreover, we can note that adoption of a resolution is not a easy thing to do. Indeed, negotiation on several words can take a lot of time and this resolution is principally based on the violation of Human Rights. We can also criticize that the resolution do not provide the military intervention and just economic and humanitarians measures. The supremacy of the U.N. is really showed in this article and it’s relevant to stress that the European Union does not have foreign minister and the states have their own national interests.
    To put it in a nutshell, it seems that the European union has not a true weight on the international stage, but it can support and financially help the United Nations, but it does not participate in the decision and resolution making, it is only the member states which do it.

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