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Bilateral trade and trade relations between the European Union and Syria have been substantially impacted by the war in Syria. At the outbreak of war in 2011, the EU suspended all its bilateral cooperation with the Government of Syria.
- With the EU implementing restrictive measures, bilateral trade volumes have decreased substantially over the years. In 2020, total trade in goods between the EU and Syria amounted to €393 million.
- The EU is Syria’s biggest trade partner, representing 8.7% of the country’s total trade in goods with the world in 2020. Syria ranks as the EU’s 136th largest trade partner.
- The EU’s imports from Syria in 2020 were worth €61 million. They were dominated by agriculture and raw materials (€47 million, 77%).
- The EU’s exports to Syria amounted to €332 million. They were dominated by agriculture and raw materials (€107 million, 32.2%), chemicals (€86 million, 25.9%) and machinery and transport equipment (€62 million, 18.7%).
- Two-way trade in services totalled €642 million in 2019, with EU imports of services representing €507 million and exports €135 million.
The EU and Syria
Bilateral EU-Syria relations are governed by the Cooperation Agreement signed in 1977. However, this was suspended in 2011 for trade in crude oil, petroleum products, gold, precious metals and diamonds.
Syria and the EU have negotiated an Association Agreement. However, the EU put its signature on hold due to the internal situation in Syria. In the meantime, the legal texts of the Agreement have become obsolete.
Following the violent internal repression in Syria, in May 2011 the EU adopted restrictive measures towards Syria, which have had an impact on bilateral trade. These include an import ban on crude oil and petroleum products, and export restrictions on dual-use goods, key equipment and technology for the oil and gas industry, as well as on certain telecoms equipment and luxury goods.
Restrictive measures implemented by the EU also concern the financial and transport sectors, and the financing of certain enterprises and infrastructure projects in Syria. The EU has frozen funds and economic resources of persons and entities supporting and/or benefitting from the Syrian regime.
Regular trade and export of food, medical equipment or medicines is not subject to EU sanctions.
Syria applied for WTO membership in October 2001. On 4 May 2010, the WTO General Council established a Working Party to examine Syria’s request for WTO membership. However, the Working Party is yet to meet.
- The EU and its Member States are collectively the largest provider of international aid in response to the Syrian crisis. Since the start of the conflict in 2011, they have mobilised over €24.8 billion to help the affected Syrian population, both inside the country and in the region.
- The EU also mobilised over €1.2 billion of humanitarian assistance in 2014-2020.
- €327.6 million was mobilised inside Syria through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), to address the population’s medium and long-term needs.
- To further increase financial assistance, the EU has also organised five international donor conferences for Syria since 2017.
- Under the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027, the EU will adopt a broad new financial cooperation instrument: the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). The NDICI will frame EU’s cooperation during this period.
- The EU’s cooperation focuses on strengthening the population’s resilience and supporting post-conflict recovery. The priority sectors include education, health, accountability, transitional justice, livelihoods and civil society capacity building.
- More information on other financial instruments and trust funds is available from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.
Syria in the Southern Neighbourhood
Syria is one of the countries in the EU’s so-called Southern Neighbourhood (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine*, Syria and Tunisia). However, Syria (like Libya) does not have an Association Agreement with the EU.
The EU established its privileged partnership with the Eastern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean back in 1995 with the launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership at the Barcelona Conference, aiming to establish an area of peace, stability and economic prosperity that upholds democratic values and human rights.
The 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process in November 2020 was an opportunity to reflect on the EU’s strategic partnership with the region in light of the political, socioeconomic, financial and environmental challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to reassess the EU’s partnership with Southern Neighbourhood partner countries. Following consultations with partners, this reflection resulted in a Joint Communication by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on ‘A renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood – A new Agenda for the Mediterranean’ and the annexed ‘Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours’ in February 2021.
However, due to the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the EU suspended its cooperation with the Syrian government under the European Neighbourhood Policy framework.
Trading with Syria
- Importing into the EU from Syria
- EU trade defence measures on imports from Syria
- Exporting from the EU to Syria
- Trade relations are part of the EU's overall political and economic relations with Syria
- Syria is a member of the World Trade Organization
- The EU’s presence on the ground in Syria is limited **
*This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.
**The EU Delegation to Syria has scaled down its activities in the host country. The Delegation staff operates from Brussels, Beirut and Amman, visiting Damascus on a regular basis.