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The Brief: Does the EU actually care about Syria?

The Brief: Does the EU actually care about Syria?

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


The European Union slapped sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea. Why isn’t it doing the same to Moscow for breaking international law in Syria?

Foreign affairs ministers are meeting in Luxembourg today. Sanctions won’t be discussed, despite the international outcry over the use of firebombs in Aleppo or the recent attack on a humanitarian aid convoy.

Washington and London have said the bombing of Aleppo is a war crime and called for new measures. In September, the US blamed Russia for the bombing of the convoy. The EU did not.

The UK, Germany and France are pushing for language condemning Russia’s devastating air campaign in the conclusions of today’s foreign affairs council, but not sanctions.

They can only be imposed with the unanimous support of all member states. That unanimity does not exist, Luxembourg’s foreign minister said ahead of the meeting.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said sanctions were not on the table.

“This has not been proposed by any member state,” she said today, “I tend to look at … other instruments for leverage.”

In another strange inconsistency, the EU does have sanctions against the Syrian regime, and Mogherini hinted they could be extended.

Why is there one rule for Assad and another for Putin? Why one for Syria and another for Ukraine? Sometimes, the simplest questions are the hardest to answer.

Mogherini is seen by some as soft on Russia. She needs to come up with a better answer to those questions at today’s 5PM press conference.

The deadline for the renewal of sanctions over Ukraine is in January, and EU leaders meet in Brussels this Thursday.

Without decisive action soon, the EU risks looking powerless, irrelevant, or just far more interested in the plight of white Christians in Ukraine than brown Muslims in Syria.

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Who would be a good choice to head up the European Parliament’s work on a controversial export control bill? How about Klaus Buchner, the MEP behind the legal challenge to CETA in the German courts? Here’s Sven Giegold MEP on the court’s decision on CETA, which may not be the progressive deal it is cracked up to be.

MEPs are pushing for reforms in exchange for their support of the EU budget. Italy and Belgium are presenting their budgets, and Spain will miss its budget deficit target. Germany’s economy ministry wants to protect high-tech companies from Chinese takeovers.

Commissioner Moscovici has said debt measures are needed for Greece to recover. WWF thinks that Greece’s debt solution should be linked to the green economy and the HFC deal is a big step in fighting climate change.

The Commission’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has called for an EU defence budget of €3-4 billion. That won’t go down well in London…

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has told Spanish farmers they will have to find “alternative markets” after Brexit. The harder the Brexit, the tougher it will be for Ireland, report The Irish Times and Guardian.

The FT splashed with the UK paying billions into the EU budget after Brexit to let the finance sector keep its access to the single market. Remainer and UK Finance Minister Phillip Hammond is “isolated” in Theresa May’s cabinet.

Brexit cheerleader Boris Johnson wrote an unpublished column arguing for the UK to stay in the EU, before backing Leave. That may be why EPP chief Manfred Weber branded him, in French, German and English, an “unscrupulous careerist and opportunist without conviction”.The Commission would not be drawn on whether Jean-Claude Juncker agreed with his political stablemate.

Russia Today’s bank accounts have been frozen in Britain and UKIP, which has criticised the move, may not get a new leader until after Christmas.

It is busy in Montenegro. They are holding elections and suffering cyber-attacks. The first chief economist of the European Central Bank has warned the “house of cards” of the single currency will collapse.

And you really, really don’t want to know what some cemetery workers in Brussels have been up to. Only look if you have a very strong stomach.


The European Ombudsman’s event on Truth, Facts and Social Media. Held tomorrow from 9AM, the debate will look into how best to communicate the EU in the post-fact society we are lumbered with. It should be well worth a look. It is being moderated by some bloke called Ryan Heath, who we’ve never heard of, but apparently is quite good.