In the midst of the Corona Crisis, the European Union has extended its sanctions against Syria for another year. European officials, including EU foreign policy Chief Joseph Borrell, have repeatedly lamented the non-suspension of US sanctions against other countries during the Corona Crisis.
The question now is whether the Europeans are merely gesturing and claiming humanitarian issues, and will they themselves use the tools of sanctions where their interests demand it. In response, it must be said that the European Union, like the United States, is using sanctions as a tool to achieve its political, economic and even security goals, and the European Union may be ahead of the United States in this regard. Because the EU wants to advance its goals more by relying on soft power than by using hard power and the armed forces. That is why sanctions have always been one of the tools used by the European Union.
The latest sanctions are a move by the German government against the Lebanese Hezbollah militia after the Netherlands and Britain. The same is true of Syria, as the European Union’s policy toward Syria has not changed. Europeans have failed to achieve the goals they set in 2011 by creating a crisis in Syria. But Syria, with the help of Iran and Russia has been able to thwart European goals in the country; European states have always been critical of Bashar Assad and the structure of the Syrian government, expressing their opposition in various ways.
At the same time, given that Bashar Assad is in a difficult political and economic situation, the Europeans are trying to continue to put pressure on Syria through sanctions to gain what they wanted they wanted to achieve through the military and by helping the Takfiri movements. Achieve by applying economic and political pressures.
Meanwhile, another question that comes up is whether these European sanctions and actions do not conflict with their human rights approach. In response, it should be noted that Europeans, like the United States, have an instrumental view of human rights in their foreign policy. That is, where their political and security interests demand, they will use human rights as a tool to achieve their goals, but where they see human rights as an obstacle, they will ignore them.
Meanwhile, the type of EU relations with Saudi Arabia and the Arab sheikhs, who are among the serious violators of human rights, can be assessed in this context. It has been more than five years since the Saudi coalition’s bombings of Yemen, and less than two years since the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, although the Europeans have criticized it, but none of this has ended up in a change in relations between Europe and Saudi Arabia. So there is an instrumental view from both the United States and European countries on the issue of human rights.
Regarding the coordination of European approaches and policies with the United States, especially during the presidency of Donald Trump, it should be noted that Europeans are strategically aligned with the Americans, but the way to realize their goals and tactics is different from Washington. In the case of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, for example, the views of Washington and Brussels and the criticisms were almost the same, but European officials had come to the conclusion that they could no longer pursue a policy of regime change in Iran after 41 years. Instead, they believe by approaching Tehran and reaching an agreement and negotiating with this country they should try to achieve their goals regarding Iran, such as in the field of nuclear issue, regional events and missiles.
But the United States has a different view from Europe, and is trying to achieve its goals using economic and military means. Thus, the tactics of European governments are based on soft power and dialogue, but the United States always wants to use hard power and sanctions against other countries and to put pressure on them.