On 27 January 2016, the European Foundation for Democracy, in collaboration with the Counter Extremism Project, hosted a closed-door policy briefing for EU diplomats and officials which offered a Syrian perspective on the EU’s response to the refugee crisis. The guest speaker was Bassam Al-Kuwatli, a Syrian activist currently based in Gaziantep, southern Turkey. He has been supportive of the Syrian uprising since the beginning and has managed the peace-building, justice and police department within the Assistance Coordination Unit and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (Etilaf), set up to coordinate assistance to those affected by the crisis. Some 30 diplomats and officials attended the briefing.
With no end in sight to either the conflict or the refugee crisis, Al-Kuwatli urged EU officials to develop a comprehensive EU strategy to address the Syrian crisis, including wider distribution of its aid, particularly to those regions which need it most. He also called on the EU to provide more support to countries neighbouring Syria – Jordan in particular – which are largely incapable of providing basic services to the hundreds of thousands of refugees within their territories. He stressed that this is where Europe can do the most to help the ongoing crisis – support the refugees and stem their flow to Europe – given the bleak outlook for a political solution to the conflict in Syria.
Al-Kuwatli also stressed that implementing a broad and comprehensive ceasefire accompanied with the credible threat of the use of external force was the only immediate solution; if not from the EU as a whole then at least from one or more European countries. He warned that failure to do so will lead to a prolonging of the conflict and the refugee crisis, putting even greater pressure on Europe.