On 16 March 2015, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted the "Elements for an EU Regional Strategy
for Syria and Iraq as well as the ISIL/Da’esh threat" as guidance for the EU’s engagement in dealing
with the threat of Da’esh and the crises in the two countries. The situation in the region and in Syria
has changed considerably since then, but the strategy has continued to be a useful guide for the EU
practical response to the crises. One year after, this paper evaluates the implementation of the
strategy’s priorities based on the impact of ongoing actions and the current geostrategic context, in
particular with regard to Syria and Da’esh [1].

This paper shows that EU actions in the region are consistent with the Regional Strategy’s
objectives and have contributed to supporting political solutions to the Syrian and Iraqi crises, as
well as the degradation of Da’esh capacities, while playing an essential role in alleviating the
dramatic humanitarian consequences of the crises. Substantial coordinated efforts have been made
to defeating Da’esh with a large range of internal and external measures. The scale of the Syria
crisis is such that efforts will never cover all needs but the London Conference in February 2016
confirmed the priority sectors where the EU should continue focusing its support: education, job
opportunities and protection. Efforts will continue to be made on livelihoods and health, supporting
also host communities who bear huge socio-economic pressure. On Iraq, the active support of the
EU to the reform, governance, stabilisation and reconciliation agenda is key to the peaceful and
democratic future of the country, as is the political will on the part of the Iraqis to achieve those

The EU foresaw EUR 1 billion for the implementation of the Strategy for 2015-2016. This figure
has risen to commitments of EUR 1.7 billion from the EU budget (as of 31 March 2016) drawing on
a variety of EU instruments [2], of which the lion’s share – around EUR 1.5 billion – has been allocated to address the Syrian crisis. At the same time, the implementation continued in 2015-2016
on projects and actions committed previously to the Strategy but in line with its main objectives.

During the London Conference, EUR 2.39 billion from the EU budget has been pledged for the
Syrian crisis for the period 2016-2017.

More than EUR 3.2 billion have been committed from the EU budget since the beginning of the
Syrian crisis in 2011. Combined with the humanitarian assistance from Member States of EUR 2.5
billion, this brings the total EU support to EUR 5.7 billion.

I. Regional issues

The EU’s actions are based on three strategic objectives: 1) addressing the political root causes of
the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, 2) mitigating the humanitarian consequences of the crises, and 3)
reducing the terrorist threat from Da’esh and other terrorist organisations and avoiding contagion at
regional level.

As regards the first objective, the creation of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), in
which all key global and regional players - including the EU - participate, has generated a new
dynamic towards finding a political solution in Syria. The EU has given its full support to the intra-
Syrian talks led by UN Special Envoy de Mistura in Geneva and the HRVP has been active in
regional and international diplomatic outreach. On Iraq, the EU has been encouraging Iraq’s
neighbours to support the government’s reform and reconciliation efforts. More detail is provided in
the sections on the country-specific objectives of the strategy. On the second objective, the EU has
been the leading global donor in response to the unprecedented scale of needs created by the Syria
and Iraq humanitarian crises. Thirdly, the EU has participated as a non-military partner in the
Global Coalition against Da’esh and the increased cooperation with countries in the region on
counterterrorism has led to the development of a large range of projects on counter radicalisation,
domestic and border security.

I.1. Providing life-saving humanitarian aid to people in need and building resilience

In Syria and neighbouring refugee-hosting countries, EUR 565 million have been committed in
humanitarian assistance, all of which has been contracted. Inside Syria, where humanitarian needs
are still the largest, the EU has thus far contracted EUR 196 million for humanitarian aid for 2015-
2016. The EU has also developed a system of first line emergency response to be able to quickly
react to sudden emergencies inside Syria. In order to support increased involvement in humanitarian
aid deliveries inside Syria, the EU is reopening its ECHO office in Damascus. The EU has also
stepped up its humanitarian diplomacy - as agreed in the FAC Conclusions of 12 October 2015- in
the Syrian crisis and has played a key role in the ISSG Humanitarian Task Force to facilitate access
and aid deliveries inside Syria, helping to reach almost 800 000 Syrians in besieged and hard to
reach areas in 2016.

The EU and its Member States made commitments amounting to EUR 3.3 billion at the London
Conference for 2016 in response to the Syria crisis. The Commission had previously established in
2014 the EU Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syria crisis (Madad Fund). Since May 2015,
the Madad Fund has attracted contributions from 21 Member States and Turkey. Its board has
approved actions for a total amount of EUR 427 million including significant support to Lebanon,
Jordan, Turkey and Iraq with a focus on increased access of refugees to education, training,
livelihoods and healthcare – of which almost half is already contracted and under implementation.
Commitments made in London for Lebanon and Jordan will enable a new focus on increasing the
resilience of host communities and aim at enhancing the refugees’ access to jobs, education,
services and security. These are of utmost importance to ensure a dignified life for Syrians, some of
whom have been refugees for almost five years. Consistent with the London Conference pledges, a
new macro-financial assistance programme of EUR 200 million for Jordan, following up on the
previous programme of EUR 180 million disbursed in 2015, will assist the country to address the
spill overs caused at macroeconomic level. In addition, in November 2015 the Commission
established a Facility for Refugees in Turkey as a mechanism to coordinate contributions from EU
Member States and the EU budget amounting to EUR 3 billion to provide humanitarian and
development assistance to refugees and host communities for 2016-2017.

In Iraq, the EU has been at the forefront of the life-saving humanitarian response for both internally
displaced persons and Syrian refugees in Iraq with over EUR 107 million committed and contracted
in 2015. The EU has also actively advocated for the protection of civilians, respect of International
Humanitarian Law and humanitarian access, which remain major challenges in the country. Thanks
to its solid humanitarian field presence, the EU has played a key role in improving the quality and
balance of the humanitarian response throughout Iraq and has been instrumental in reaching people
in underserved/hard to reach areas, in line with the all-of-Iraq approach. The development of
integrated systems of aid and promotion of multipurpose cash support, where appropriate, has led to
a more cost-efficient response. EU assistance (development and crisis response assistance) also
contributed to the resilience of IDPs and host communities in Iraq. In 2015 the EU committed 45
million EUR for education including structural reforms and immediate response to the educational
needs of refugees and host communities.

I. 2. Countering the Da’esh threat

EU action has complemented counter Da’esh efforts by Member States and the international
community in two ways:

Internal measures

The European Commission has adopted a wide and comprehensive range of measures to counter
Da’esh. The Commission proposed a Directive harmonising the criminalisation of terrorist offences
in line with the European Agenda on Security to fight against terrorism. In March 2016, the EU
Counter-Terrorism Coordinator set out a number of urgent measures to tackle the threat from
Da’esh in light of the recent attacks in Paris and in Brussels.

On border management, the use of the Schengen Information System has been intensified and
improved. In relation to radicalisation, the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN) has
assembled experts across the EU to develop and exchange best practices. The Syria Strategic
Communications Advisory Team (SSCAT) has provided demand-driven responses for Member
States to counter the internal terrorist narrative. Through an Internet Forum, the European
Commission is developing a partnership with key social media companies to look at how government and industry can work together to remove online terrorist propaganda and counter the
appeal of Da’esh.

The European Counter Terrorism Centre (ECTC) at Europol is bringing together existing
monitoring and analytical capacities, including ’Check the Web’ and ’Focal Point Travelers’
integrating the Financial Intelligence Units network and creating new capabilities such as the
Internet Referral Unit (IRU). Other measures cover the improvement of information exchange,
interoperability of data bases, rehabilitation, risk assessment tools, training of professionals,
education and youth outreach. The recent adoption of the EU Passenger Name Record (PNR)
Directive is also an important measure as part of the response to returning foreign terrorist fighters.
The Directive on preventing money laundering and terrorism financing (4th AML Directive) will
make it ever more difficult for terrorists to use the financial system for funding their activities. The
European Commission has also adopted an Action Plan to reinforce preventive measures tackling
terrorist financing risks, strengthen controls on cash movements and enhance the legal framework
on customs and trade in order to fight against illegal trade and trafficking of cultural goods. With
regard to firearms and explosives an implementing Regulation on firearms deactivation standards
was adopted. The implementation of these measures should contribute to further degrading Da’esh
financial and operational capabilities

External action

The EU actions aim at preventing the spread of Da’esh franchises, while vigorously acting to uproot
Da’esh inside Syria and Iraq by denying its access to funds, fighters and resources. The EU has
considerably stepped up its counter-terrorism engagement with countries affected by Da’esh in
North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and the Western Balkans. Targeted and upgraded security
and counter-terrorism dialogues have been undertaken with Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
countries and consultations are being conducted with other partners while CT (counter-terrorism)
/security experts have been deployed in EU Delegations.

This has led inter alia to the adoption of a counter-terrorism (CT) assistance package for Tunisia
and should lead to similar packages for Jordan and Lebanon. The EU has engaged in a structured
cooperation with Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon based on clear roadmaps that focus on advice and expertise, training, border security, legal reforms, aviation security and counter-radicalisation
measures. Work is also ongoing to strengthen cooperation between the EU and MENA countries on
fighting the illicit traffic of firearms following a kick-off conference that took place in October

The volume of counter-terrorism and security-related bilateral programmes with Tunisia, Jordan
and Lebanon stands currently at EUR 30 million, EUR 35 million and EUR 31.5 million
respectively. Regional programming benefiting those countries and others in the region amounts to
close to EUR 70 million. The EU is in the process of finalising a number of measures for joint
action with Turkey at the CT dialogue on 8 June.

In order to counter Da’esh’s ideological influence, the EU has dedicated resources to an ’Outreach
and Communication with the Arab-speaking World’ Strategic communications Task Force and is
funding a EUR 3.3 million project aiming to strengthen local resilience to extremist recruitment in
Tunisia, Lebanon and Morocco. The EU is also actively involved in the SSCAT. Moreover, a joint
Communication on culture in external relations will be soon adopted and an initiative to listen to
and engage with young European and MENA leaders aiming to build a consistent, positive and
shared narrative is currently being prepared.

The EU has intensified its efforts to promote a criminal justice response to terrorism in the MENA
region. For example it has developed actions such as CT MENA (a EUR 13 million project focused
on support for the League of Arab States to improve rule of law based CT and Counter Violent
Extremism (CVE) efforts, establishment of a CT technical assistance facility and future resilience
initiatives for MENA countries) and a EUR 4.5 million project implemented by CEPOL providing
CT training to law enforcement agencies from MENA countries. Other EU funded actions in this
field have focused on strengthening resilience to violent extremism in Jordan (EUR 10 million);
strengthening the legal regime against terrorist fighters in MENA and Balkans (EUR 5 million);
reinforcing Euromed Police IV (EUR 4.8 million); peace-building and conflict mediation
programmes in Lebanon (EUR 3.7 million).

The progress of the Global Coalition to counter ISIL/Da’esh has been significant. In Iraq, Da’esh has
been curtailed in terms of territory and financing, while in Syria, its access to manpower, funds and resources has dramatically declined. The EU is participating in the Global Coalition’s working
groups on stabilisation, foreign fighters, counter financing and counter radicalisation,
complementing the military and non-military contributions of a number of Member States. Internal
and external counter-radicalisation, counter-recruitment and travel restriction efforts have
contributed to a decrease of Europeans leaving for Syria and Iraq and in some Member States the
number of returnees now exceeds the number of those still leaving for the conflict region. The EU
needs to constantly adapt its action to respond to the enhanced versatility and resilience and
geographical spread of Da’esh, including to Libya, and focus on tailor-made responses to the threat.

The EU has implemented restrictive measures in line with UNSCR 2253 (2015) on 17 December
2015 and discussions are ongoing concerning the imposition of additional "EU autonomous"
restrictive measures.

II. Syria

II.1. Work towards a political transition

The situation in Syria has changed significantly since the EU Strategy was endorsed and EU action
has therefore already gone beyond what was envisaged. In particular, the EU is playing an active
part in the international efforts to resolve the crises through the HRVP’s participation in the ISSG
ministerial meetings and the EU’s role in the humanitarian and ceasefire task forces.

The EU has reached out to key actors such as Russia, the USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and
Turkey in order to promote buy-in and support for the process, and actively supports the intra-
Syrian talks in Geneva led by the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura for the implementation of
the UN Resolution 2254. It has also reached out to all Syrian actors, including civil society,
minorities and women, to encourage their awareness, support for and participation in the political
process through expertise, training and capacity building. The EU intends to fund retroactively the
secretariat created in Geneva for the delegation of the Syrian opposition (EUR 400 000). An EU
Comprehensive Syria Peace Initiative (EUR 8 million) has been created this year to fund support
for the political process in areas such as mediation, intra-Syrian dialogue, expertise for
constitutional and security sector reform and civil society platforms.

II.2. Strengthen the moderate opposition and the civil society actors

The EU has continued to provide support for the Syrian moderate opposition and contributed to
increasing the cooperation between the Syrian National Coalition and the National Coordination
Body to enhance unity of the opposition in preparation for Geneva talks. The EU has engaged
extensively in support of Syrian civil society, women’s networks and grass-roots initiatives working
in the fields of local governance, women’s empowerment, local mediation and peacebuilding, free
media, human rights and transitional justice. The EU has funded over 100 local Syrian Civil Society
Organisations (CSO) partners with EUR 12 million in 2015, to provide basic services, improve
local administration and the rule of law and prepare the ground for a political transition. Many of
the initial participants in the Geneva civil society room are EU-supported CSOs.

II.3. Provide basic services and contribute to rebuilding administration in areas of reduced violence

Beyond humanitarian aid, the provision of basic services in Syria has been developed following a
"whole of Syria approach" that aims at bringing together operations conducted cross-border as well
as from Damascus to maximise efficiency and reach out to all Syrians in need. Since 2011, the
Commission has committed EUR 172 million in development assistance within Syria in the sectors
of education, livelihood, local governance, civil society, media and health. The EU presence in
Gaziantep has facilitated the cross-border work, including through a rapid reaction mechanism to
respond to immediate needs.

The EU currently manages 32 development programmes (EUR 112 million) and funding is used to
engage with the United Nations, International Non-Governmental Organisations and Member
States’ agencies in the fields where the most important needs for early recovery are identified. For
example, with the resilience support of the EU, 115 tons of solid waste has been removed, 553
businesses have been restored and over 14.000 job opportunities created.

II.4. Promote human rights/international humanitarian law and ensure accountability

The EU is at the forefront of international efforts to promote human rights and humanitarian law in
Syria. It supports the work of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the
Syrian Arab Republic and also provides financial support to the Commission for International
Justice and Accountability (EUR 1.5 million) for investigating and documenting war crimes in
Syria. Furthermore the EU supports the efforts of Syrian lawyers and human rights activists based
inside Syria and the region with EUR 5.7 million to promote respect of human rights, reach out to
detainees in Syrian prisons and document human rights violations. In the ISSG humanitarian task
force, a focus for the EU has been on trying to secure humanitarian standards in the implementation
of aid deliveries.

II.5. Prepare the "day after"

The EU is already preparing the ground for a possible post-settlement phase by facilitating access to
education, supporting rehabilitation and early recovery efforts where possible and building the
capacity of civilian groups in service delivery and local governance. A study on needs/damage
assessment in cities and neighbourhoods inside Syria is being conducted by UN-Habitat and the EU
Joint Research Centre (EUR 2.2 million) and will be used for post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
The EU will need to mobilise all available instruments, including the Regional Trust Fund, for a
rapid and early involvement in rebuilding Syria as soon as a political solution is reached. Further
financial support, in conjunction with other international institutions as appropriate, will also be
envisaged. This will offer incentives for the Syrian refugees to return and participate in the
stabilisation and reconstruction efforts. The EU has already held informal discussions with various
IFIs and other donors to start preparations in this regard.

III. Iraq

III.1.The fight against Da’esh in Iraq

In Iraq, significant progress has been made in the military effort, thanks also to the military support
that a number of Member States have been providing to the Iraqi security forces, including the
Peshmerga. The appointment of a CT/security expert to the EU Delegation in Baghdad has facilitated EU support to Iraq on a Counter Terrorism project (EUR 3.5 million) launched at the end
of 2015 which has been well received even if it is too early to assess its impact. Support to counternarrative
efforts in Iraq has so far suffered from the lack of a clear Iraqi Counter Terrorism strategy
and from the highly sectarian media landscape. The security crisis has reinforced sectarian and
ethnic cleavages, with a number of armed groups engaging in sectarian retribution and
"demographic engineering", thus damaging prospects for reconciliation. This carries risks for the
future unity of the country and needs to be factored into the EU’s engagement. The EU is currently
running three projects promoting an alternative to the prevalent sectarian and violent discourse
(EUR 3.6 million with further EUR 10 million envisaged in this area).

III. 2. Support for Stabilisation

The stabilisation of areas liberated from Da’esh has emerged as an important EU priority and is a
key factor for the preservation of Iraqi unity as it fosters reconciliation at grass roots level and helps
to restore public confidence in the state. From the EU’s perspective it is also a key factor in
discouraging migration. In 2016, the EU earmarked EUR 14 million for the Funding Facility for
Immediate Stabilisation (FFIS). The EU presence in Erbil since August 2015 has also contributed to
EU stabilisation efforts and diplomatic engagement in Iraq. Within the Global Coalition’s working
group on stabilisation, the EU acts as the focal point for ’booby trap’ (Improvised Explosive Devices
 IED) removal through a EUR 4.5 million project. This has become a critical issue in enabling
civilians to return to liberated areas. Support to police training for stabilisation purposes is an area
where EU Member States are particularly active and is a key factor for reinforcing the rule of law in
liberated areas. These efforts are appreciated by the Global Coalition, and could be scaled up. To
ensure a longer term impact, the government needs to be encouraged to put in place structural
measures to reduce staff turnover.

III.3. Helping to make political inclusiveness a reality

Another central plank of the EU’s Iraq policy has been to support the government’s efforts to
achieve reform, inclusive governance and reconciliation, though so far success has been limited.
The government’s political reform programme has reached a stalemate and may be regressing on
some issues as a result of political in-fighting. No sustained and publicly visible efforts at reconciliation have been initiated by any of the key Iraqi political players. The EU efforts in this
area have centred on engagement through the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement
(PCA) and support to the government to develop a national reconciliation plan, due to be put
forward in Spring 2016. EU-sponsored efforts (EUR 1 million through Crisis Management
Initiative) have involved marginalised Sunni groups, including Iraqi Sunnis outside Iraq, the
Kurdistan Region, in coordination with the UN (United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq -
UNAMI). More time will be needed for this work to bear fruit. Further EU efforts to promote the
domestic reform agenda are needed, focusing on high-level engagement. In view of the challenging
internal political situation described above, the scope for peace-building and transitional justice are
still limited. The EU has supported the December 2014 oil/revenue sharing agreement reached
between the federal government and the Kurdistan region, which is not currently functioning. The
EU will need to sustain its efforts to promote dialogue amongst the Kurdish parties, as well as
between the Kurdish regional government and the federal government.

III.4. Support the consolidation of democratic institutions and economic development

The EU has been contributing to the consolidation of rule of law through support for democratically
run state institutions, judicial reforms, and the mainstreaming of human rights issues (EUR 14.4
million). Support to the socio-economic development of areas affected by massive population
displacement is envisaged in 2016. Measures have had some success but are hampered by limited
Iraqi absorption, planning and prioritisation capacities, as well as sustainability and security issues.
The option of the EU supporting a more comprehensive reform is excluded given the limited
funding available and actions must be targeted at the reform of key areas of governance for which
there are indicators of success.

The EU together with the UN have been major contributors to Iraqi efforts to strengthen regional
and local administration with a longer term perspective (EUR 11.5 million for the EU Local Area
Development Programme implemented by UNDP).. The EU, in close cooperation with the IMF and
World Bank, has started working on support for improved public finance management, in order to
preserve the Federal Government’s and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s crisis-coping
capacities, not least in view of the further population displacements. The EU has initiated an
economic dialogue with Iraq under the EU-Iraq PCA to help improve economic performance, public service provision and fiscal policy capacities, which is expected to gather momentum in
2016, as are preparations for EIB loan operations in Iraq. Outside support to Iraq, not least in the
form of economic and financial advice, capacity building and concessionary financing, will be
critical in the coming years as Iraq makes painful, long-term adjustments to re-establish its
economic and financial health.

IV. Next steps

Based on the assessment in this paper and the forthcoming discussion in the Council, the EU will
set out adjusted policy priorities under the strategy for the coming year through the adoption of
Council Conclusions.

Source : European External Action Service. Mena Directorate. Working document. EEAS/COM(2016) 1. Limited.

[1The relative short timeframe for the full implementation needs to be taken into account, especially for longer term
financing instruments and actions that will only achieve results over several years.

[2Humanitarian Aid, European Neighbourhood Instrument, Development Cooperation Instrument, Instrument for Pre-
Accession, European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.