Today sees Syria at the top of the agenda, with the Prime Minister recalling Parliament to debate a possible invasion.
The atrocities that have been committed in that country are abhorrent and those that perpetrated these crimes against humanity need to see justice.
However, this situation did not happen overnight: problems have been brewing between the Assad regime and other Syrians for a number of years now.
Currently we hear on the news about what role Russia and Iran have played in Syria. Indeed, an article linked to yesterday on the Backbencher suggested that Iran and Syria might still have a defensive pact. It illustrates that the situation is not unfolding in isolation, and that there is, as pointed out by many including Robert Halfon MP, realpolitik at play.
However, what happened before the crisis? How did we get to this stage? I would like to say that I cannot provide a definitive answer to this, however, I can say that we have overlooked something: The European Union (EU).
Today The Freedom Association sent a new pamphlet, “The EU’s Effect on the UK’s Place in the World” to Members of Parliament illustrating that the European Union has been involved with Syria for a number of years. Indeed, the “European Project” has been assisting successive Syrian governments since 1977 and has, in recent years, given over £1 billion to the Assad regime.
This money was given in a number of ways and in a number of guises. It is also by no means the only thing that I highlight in the paper. However, this cash did flow from EU member states into Syria via the EU for the purposes of supporting “good governance”, “social action” and “economic reform” – obviously all to little effect.
The EU is playing a game of diplomacy and risk with your money. Indeed, it is UK taxpayers’ money, channelled through the EU, that has helped regimes that the UK might not agree with across the world. Indeed, the UK gives its highest proportion of multilateral aid – 37 percent – to the EU. This results in some of the €1.2 billion+ the UK gives the EU going to regimes such as those in Syria, alongside dictators like President Lukashenko in Belarus. It indicates that the UK’s money has been spent, through the EU, on propping up dictatorial regimes. It would no doubt be better spent elsewhere.
In the case of Syria we see some programmes and projects the UK taxpayer didn’t even participate in. It means that far from guiding EU affairs, the UK has become a victim of them. Programmes such as the Euro-Mediterranean (MEDA and MEDA II) programmes, or the European Investment Bank Loans have not succeeded in achieving their aims in the region and have certainly not succeeded in preventing this crisis.
Nonetheless, the UK is still in this European Project that grows and grows, especially with regard to foreign affairs, even when countries like the UK do not support the stated programmes.
To my mind this indicates a lack of British influence, not a high degree. It also illustrates that, in this instance, where the EU has failed, individual nations are required to pick up the pieces. Indeed it seems like individual nations such as the UK will now becoming increasingly involved in one way or another in Syria.
This was something we could have avoided. But the great sadness is not what is happening to the British taxpayer, but what is happening in to the people of Syria.
Rory Broomfield is the Deputy Director at The Freedom Association (TFA) and the director of @BetterOffOut.