This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at

Plenary speech on the situation in Syria

Madam President, even in the face of the most horrific crimes in Syria, the EU finds it difficult to speak with a strong and united voice. In Syria, snipers are shooting people for holding a cell phone, children are tortured to death, the Government is turning off water, electricity, food and medicine supplies to entire cities, censorship and misinformation are rampant, and cell phone networks and Internet are down. People are slaughtered and buried in mass graves, while the families are forced to state that these murders were the work of so-called thugs. Ghayath Mattar, a human rights defender and activist for a peaceful transition in Syria, was tortured to death this week. The people who attended his funeral were shot at by State security forces. Surely this was the work of thugs – thugs of the Syrian State apparatus which no longer has any credibility or legitimacy. Let us not forget that the number of 2 600 estimated deaths refers to a father, a mother, a brother, a sister, a friend, a spouse or a child each and every time. The crime? Speaking out peacefully for justice, rights, opportunities and self-determination. Meanwhile, the EU is not leveraging its weight. As Syria’s most significant trade partner, now is the time to impose further targeted sanctions. We must also explicitly force the economic elites who are in al-Assad’s camp to make a choice. Doing business with the EU means breaking with al-Assad, and al-Assad must be held accountable for his deeds. The acts of the Syrian regime remind me of the Iranian regime’s acts, and we have strong reasons to believe that they are providing tools and know-how, but we must not allow the same to happen as in Iran in 2009 – for the people to be further crushed and oxygen, freedom and opportunity for a brighter future to be squeezed out of society even more. People look to the EU to act as a global player. And the EU? It stares at its own navel. The EU must liaise much more intensely with candidate Member State Turkey to act sensibly towards Syria. While we welcome the shelter provided for refugees, I want to highlight that it is regrettable that Prime Minister Erdogan did not mention Syria at the Arab League in Cairo yesterday. Even though I appreciate the presence of Comissioner Füle and Minister Dowgielewicz here, we would have liked to have seen Catherine Ashton here before this House today to discuss the EU’s foreign policy and the urgent situation in Syria in particular. I can only hope that her absence does not reflect the broader absence of the EU and the EAS on the ground at this crucial moment in time, but I am worried that it does. I sincerely hope that the Polish Presidency will use this momentum of an all-time low to revive and strengthen Europe in the world. Process and results must not be confused.