Peacebuilding Forum 1 – “Post-conflict Syria”

Correspondents: Steven Blockmans and Hrant Kostanyan
Host: Centre for European Policy Studies
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Date: 11 May 2016


Executive Summary

On 11 May 2016, a lunchtime event hosted by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels, Belgium, brought together a number of experts from Europe and Syria to assess the conditions on the ground and reflect on the implementation of peace deal for Syria if and when the Geneva diplomatic process generates an agreement. The forum was entitled, “Postconflict Syria: Which EU civilian capabilities for reconstruction?”

The event was chaired by Steven Blockmans (Head of EU Foreign Policy at CEPS) and the speakers were Antje Herrberg (Head of MediatEUr), Pierre Vimont (Senior Associate at Carnegie Europe and former Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service) and Mazen Darwish (President of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression).


Full Report

The diplomatic process aimed to achieve settlement of the conflict in Syria has been slow. In the first four years it did not deliver anything more than a handful of UN resolutions. Paradoxically, diplomacy came into a rapid after Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Spurred by the success of the nuclear talks with Iran, a serious peace process got underway in the framework of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). On 11 May 2016, a lunchtime event hosted by the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels, Belgium, brought together a number of experts from Europe and Syria to assess the conditions on the ground and reflect on the implementation of peace deal for Syria if and when the Geneva diplomatic process generates an agreement. The forum was entitled, “Postconflict Syria: Which EU civilian capabilities for reconstruction?” The event was chaired by Steven Blockmans (Head of EU Foreign Policy at CEPS) and the speakers were Antje Herrberg (Head of MediatEUr), Pierre Vimont (Senior Associate at Carnegie Europe and former Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service) and Mazen Darwish (President of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression).

Mr. Vimont expressed a pessimistic view of the current negotiations as the parties to the conflict still think that there is a military solution to the crisis. Although all major parties are now around the table in the US-Russia brokered peace process, there are still problems in all the dimensions of the ongoing dialogue, namely ceasefire, humanitarian assistance and political talks. Mr. Darwish welcomed the US-Russia cooperation on finding peace for Syria but has not brought about much progress. Dialogue is needed not only to broker peace in Syria but also for post-transition reconciliation. He reminded the audience about the need for accountability in post-conflict Syria and pointed out that ‘accountability’ does not equate to revenge. It is not possible to hold everyone accountable for the atrocities committed over the past years but there is a need for a strong signal that there should be no impunity. Extremists have more support from foreign governments than the moderate forces. Mr. Darwish called for more confidence building measures, rapid resolution of detainee issues, the restoration of political trust in the government and protection of minorities. In all of these areas, the EU could provide valuable support. Ms. Herrberg developed 2 possible scenarios for post-conflict Syria. First, different Syrian factions may reach an agreement that would not be implemented because of the country’s internal fragmentation. Secondly, there might be an agreement that would eventually lead to a frozen conflict in Syria. Implementation of any peace deal is a generational project. Drawing on the lessons of peace-building, 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 in this forum critically assessed the non-military instruments which the EU could bring to bear to that post-conflict international peace-building effort. As such, the seminar provided an ex ante evaluation of the relevance of the tools in the EU’s kit, and applied it to one of the most dramatic crisis situations in the EU’s neighbourhood.


People Involved

Steven Blockmans

Steven Blockmans is a senior research fellow and the head of the ‘EU foreign policy’ and ‘politics and institutions’ units of CEPS.

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