Tensions are high between the European Union and Russia as they are now disagreeing about how to rebuild post-war Syria.
Russia wants the EU to pay for the reconstruction efforts with humanitarian aid.
“The EU wants to see a political transition first, but this is the time when people suffer, so we believe that the time has come to go beyond the scope of humanitarian aid to something more substantial,” said Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the European Union.
“We will coordinate efforts with other possible players. The Iranians may say that they contribute a certain amount to restore Syria, but what will Britain say, what will the EU say?”
Vulnerable Syria desperately needs funds to not only rebuild, but also to survive.
“The Syrian regime lacks funds, reserves and is in massive debt, so it needed to develop a privatization model that could fund the reconstruction process,” said Joseph Daher, Swiss-Syrian academic and author to News Deeply. “The states that will benefit are definitely the countries allied to the Assad regime, particularly Iran, Russia and China. India and Brazil might also benefit from the reconstruction drive. Assad and Syrian officials have repeatedly declared that companies from allied countries will be rewarded, while European and American companies will first need to have their governments apologize for supporting the opposition before benefiting.”
But again, Russia is trying to get the EU to foot the bill. Chizhov told Financial Times that rebuilding will likely cost “dozens of billions” of euros.
The EU has said that funds will not be given until a political transition deal has been made with the Assad regime.
“At the moment it’s in the EU’s interests to increase pressure on Russia by not putting any money in,” said a European diplomat to the FT. “The fact that the Russians are getting upset shows that the pressure is beginning to tell.”
The EU has $10 billion allocated for humanitarian aid for Syrian humanitarian crisis, which is more than any other country.
“[Europe is] preparing the ground for the international community to start looking into the post-war reconstruction of Syria,” said the diplomat to FT. “The EU wants to see political transition first, but in the meantime, people are suffering, so we believe that it’s high time to go beyond staple humanitarian aid to something more substantial.”
If the EU does release the funds, Russia and other Assad regime allies will benefit the most from the reconstruction process.
“Reconstruction, as a project, will help the regime and crony capitalists consolidate their political and economic power, while also rewarding foreign allies for their support by granting them a sizable share of the market. As such, reconstruction will consolidate and even reinforce the patrimonial nature of the state,” said Daher
Author’s note: It’s strange that Russia would assume that Europe would cover the costs to rebuild Syria when the EU was not an Assad ally. But t looks like EU might give in sooner than later.