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29 September 2015, New York – Opening remarks by European Commissioner Stylianides at the United Nations High Level Ministerial Event on the Syria Crisis

– Check against delivery –

Dear Deputy Secretary General,

Dear Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

In twenty- twelve (2012), when the EU organized this event for the first time, my colleagues hoped that this would have been a one-off event.  Unfortunately, two years later we are here again.

This conflict, now in its fifth year has become the greatest humanitarian tragedy of recent times.

More than seven million are displaced in their own country and more than four million have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries.

The deepest and most pressing needs are inside Syria. If the conflict deteriorates further, the 7.6 million IDPs today might become the refugees of tomorrow.  But while needs increase, access and protection decrease.

Therefore, our first response must be inside Syria. Ensuring access and protection to those in need across Syria is the key challenge. How to address this challenge is the topic of our first panel.

Syria has turned as a war on children. Almost half of people in need are children. Almost three millions Syrian kids are out of school. We cannot let have a “lost generation”.  Because education is the foundation for everything else. It is a shield for the most vulnerable. How to ensure their access to education will also be a key topic today in our second session.

The generosity of neighbouring Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq must be recognized and commended.  It is a concrete example of solidarity.  They have taken an enormous burden for their societies. They were the first to open their doors to desperate people. We need to continue to support them. By providing tangible assistance and by ensuring the protection of their basic rights. What more needs to be done will be the issue of our third panel.

It is really crucial that we have Jordan, one of the major host countries, as co-chair of this event. And also Turkey and Lebanon represented today by their Foreign Ministers.  My good friends Feridun Sinirlioglu and  Gebran Bassil.  Thank you all for your presence.

At the end of the day, we need a political solution to the crisis.  Initiatives by the UN Special Envoy de Mistura have our full support.

In the meantime, we need to continue and even increase our assistance to those in need. The UN appeals are sixty (60)% under-funded. The EU just agreed to allocate an additional 1 billion Euros to respond to the Syria crisis.

Most of this money will go to our UN, ICRC and NGO partners in Syria and in neighbouring countries. Half of this amount will be humanitarian aid in response to the enormous emergency needs. The other half will go to cover the longer-term needs of what has become a protracted crisis. This linked up approach of humanitarian and development is the way forward.

I am very grateful to the various initiatives announced to address this humanitarian tragedy, notably by Germany. I am very happy that we have with us Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to deliver kick-off remarks.

He will be joined by Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. Who will tell us more on how we see the future international response and how we can best support the UN in this challenge.

I am looking forward to constructive discussions which hopefully can lead to a tangible outcome. On how we can do better to help the millions of people in need.

Without any other delay, I give the floor to Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Dear Frank-Walter, the floor is yours.


The co-chair will have to serve as time-keepers. The interventions by Steinmeier and Eliasson should not go beyond 5 minutes. After Steinmeier’s intervention, one of the co-chairs should give the floor to Eliasson. Following Eliasson, the chair of the first panel (most likely yourself) will introduce the panel (3 minutes max). After your short introduction, you will give the floor to the first speaker, Gordon Brown (all speakers have maximum of 4 minutes).

  • Thank you, Deputy Secretary General Eliasson and Minister Steinmeier for your very frank assessment of the situation and your very inspiring remarks to guide our discussions today and our future response to this crisis.

Let me now move to our First session.

SESSION 1– Humanitarian situation inside Syria, with particular focus on access and shortages in the health sector

Today’s first session will focus on the situation inside Syria, the humanitarian needs but in particular the question how to ensureaccess to those people in need. Despite 3 UN Security Council Resolutions on this matter (2139, 2165, 2191), what we see is trend of decreasing access rather than improved access. Where do we stand with the implementation of the “Whole of Syria”-approach, which should ensure access wherever the needs are?

One particular aspect which does not often receive sufficient attention is the massive impact of decreasing access to the already crumbling health system. In fact, the lack of access to health and medical treatment has become the cause of an “invisible mass killing” similar to the direct effect of fighting. Ordinary diseases turn lethal for lack medicine. We must do our utmost to ensure the provision of medical care and supplies.

  • Lastly, we of course also have to address the issue of protection – or rather the absence of protection. We see almost daily reports of deliberate attacks on school, medical facilities and humanitarian aid workers in stark violation of International Humanitarian Law. The international community cannot to be silent on these crimes.
  • I am pleased to have 2 distinguished experts on this matter with us today, Under-Secretary General Stephen O’Brien and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer.
  • Without further due, Stephen, you have the floor for your 4-minute intervention.

If there are questions from the floor to the panellists , please raise your hand. I insist it should be questions or very short comments. But NO STATEMENTS please. These are for the plenary session.

We will now turn to an issue that Commissioner Hahn and myself and certainly our distinguished panel are very much attached to. It is an issue that determines the future of Syria: How to provide the children of this country – the most vulnerable victims of this terrible war – with hope for a better future and prevent the notion of a “lost generation” from becoming a reality?


* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

  • Ref: EUUN15-140EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: General Assembly - Plenary,Other
  • Date: 29/09/2015

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