Europeans more impatient with Bashar
in Strasbourg, Friday 8 Jul 2011
European tolerance of Bashar's coercion of Syrian protesters is wearing thin, but it has not yet reached the boiling point


"We cannot keep waiting for a UN Security Council resolution on Syria while (Syrian President) Bashar (Assad) is killing civilians"; "We have to pressure Bashar"; and "We need a free and democratic Syria".

These were some of the statements made by European members of Parliament during a session that was especially dedicated to discuss the Arab Spring at the parliament headquarters in Strasbourg yesterday (Wednesday 6 July) at the afternoon.

The statements of the European Parliamentarians – of different political groups and certainly of different national affiliations – were made after Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy had made a short representation on the situation in the Arab region whereby she condemned strongly the killing of civilians in Syria by the regime of Bashar Assad and promised to keep the pressure on the Syrian president until the killing is stopped a truly inclusive national dialogue is initiated and conducted.

But what Ashton offered did not seem to be to the liking of close to 40 ( out of …) European parliamentarians who took floor to press upon the EU Higher Representative for Foreign Policy to do more.

Suggested forwarded for the consideration of Ashton included the expansion of the list names of Syrian officials and individuals on the travel ban and assets freeze list to include the members of around "200 families who are there ruling Syria and supporting the regime of Assad".

Ashton was also demanded by the parliamentarians of the 27 member states representatives to "go to Damascus" and to put forward a clear message to Assad and his regime that he needs to stop the killing and to start dialogue. Should Assad not succumb then, as one parliamentarian suggested to the applause of others, the European Union need to consider cooperating with a Turkish plan to have a demilitarized zone in Syria for the protection of Syrian civilians.

The objective, according to parliamentarians who took the floor was clear: build a free and democratic Syria which will "end the influence of Iran" over the Arab world and "end the support for Hizbullah".

Meanwhile, the High Representative of the EU Foreign Policy was asked to be mindful of the possible negative influences that might hit the Christian and other non-Muslim communities in Syria should Islamists come to power in Syria.

But for the European officials in Brussels who had spoken Tuesday (5 July) to Al-Ahram Online on condition of anonymity the time has not come yet for the world to worry about who is taking over from Assad given that the international community has not yet reached a point whereby it finds it imperative for Assad to step down.

In the words of one European official at the headquarters city of the EU "Bashar does still have a chance, I would say, to reform and survive".

But for the mildest of European parliamentarians who are willing to see the Bashar regime survive, this would only come under much harsher pressure than what is currently coming out of the European capitals including pulling out all European ambassadors from Damascus and working within the US Security Council for a prompt and firm resolution that should the Syrian president and his regime – given that many in both Brussels and Strasbourg think that Bashar is not alone at the helm – that no more killing and no more authoritarianism would be overlooked.

A harder pressure is possible to exercise, according to the European officials in Brussels – but without going too far because "the army in Syria" has not seen serious defections from the regime and because credible "alternatives to the regime of Bashar" have yet to materialize.

The short line that many Burssels use is that "the time has not come yet to ask Bashar to step down". However, some hasten to add, or at least to suggest, that it might eventually be coming round the corner – even if later than sooner.

On 18 July the fore

"We cannot go on waiting for a UN Security Council resolution on Syria while [Syrian President] Bashar [Assad] is killing civilians"; "We have to pressure Bashar"; and "We need a free and democratic Syria"…

These were some of the statements made by European Members of Parliament during a session dedicated to the Arab Spring at the parliamentary headquarters in Strasbourg on Wednesday afternoon.

European Parliamentarians from different political groups and national affiliations spoke after Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy, gave a short presentation on the situation in the Arab region, harshly condemning the killing of civilians in Syria by the regime of Bashar Assad and promising to keep exercising pressure on the Syrian president until the killing is stopped and a truly inclusive national dialogue is initiated.

But what Ashton offered did not seem to be to the liking of some 40 parliamentarians who took the floor to urge the EU Higher Representative for Foreign Policy to do more.

Suggestions forwarded for the consideration of Ashton included the expansion of the list of names of Syrian officials and individuals on the travel ban and the assets freeze list to include members of around "200 families who are there ruling Syria and supporting the regime of Assad".

It was also demanded of Ashton by the parliamentarians of 27 member states to "go to Damascus" and to put forward a clear message to Assad and his regime – that he needs to stop the killing and to start a dialogue. Should Assad not succumb then, as one parliamentarian suggested to the applause of others, the European Union must consider cooperating with a Turkish plan to established a demilitarized zone in Syria for the protection of Syrian civilians.

The objective, according to parliamentarians who took the floor, was clear: build a free and democratic Syria which will "end the influence of Iran" over the Arab world and "end support for Hizbullah".

Meanwhile, the High Representative of the EU Foreign Policy was asked to be mindful of the possible negative repercussions on Christian and other non-Muslim communities in Syria should Islamists come to power.

But for the European officials in Brussels who had spoken to Al-Ahram Online on condition of anonymity on Tuesday (5 July), the time has not yet come for the world to worry about who is taking over from Assad given that the international community does not yet find it imperative for Assad to step down. In the words of one official in Strasbourg, "Bashar still does have a chance, I would say, to reform and survive".

But even for European parliamentarians mild enough to be willing to see the Bashar regime survive, already there is a need for much harsher pressure from European capitals – including pulling out all European ambassadors from Damascus and working within the US Security Council for a prompt and firm resolution forcing the Syrian president and his regime (since many in both Brussels and Strasbourg think that Bashar is not alone at the helm) to stop the killing and authoritarianism.

It is possible to exercise greater pressure, according to European officials in Brussels, but without going too far since "the army in Syria" has not seen serious defections from the regime and because credible "alternatives to the regime of Bashar" have yet to materialize.

The short line that many in Burssels use is that "the time has not come yet come to ask Bashar to step down". However, some hasten to add, or at least to suggest, that it might actually be just round the corner – even if later than sooner.

On 18 July the foreign ministers of the EU will meet in Brussels, and Syria will be on the agenda. In this upcoming meeting, according tod Nicols Kerleroux, the head of the press office at the council of the EU, "sanctions will be on the review; they can be expanded; we will see after the ministers are briefed about the contacts with Damascus and the deliberations in New York."



ign ministers of the EU will meet in Brussels, and Syria, will be on the agenda.

In this upcoming meeting "sanctions will be on the review; they can be expanded; we will see after the ministers are briefed about the contacts with Damascus and the deliberations in New York," said Nicols Kerleroux, head of the press office at the council of the EU.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/15873.aspx