April 22, 2008
More than any country in the MED, Syria remains a harsh authoritarian regime. The hopes for an opening under the “young Assad” have long been dashed. Syria is a police state with severe repression of all those who dare to challenge the undisputed political and economic power of the wide Assad clan. It is much worse in that regard than the Moubarak clan in Egypt or the Ben Ali family in Tunisia.
Politically Syria is more dependent on Iran than it ever was under the wise “father Assad”. Economically it is anything but strong. Its oil production is about to decline and Syria has become a net oil importer. Its agriculture will increasingly suffer from water scarcity, due to less water coming from Turkey and impending climate change. So it will have to develop manufacturing and services as the mainstay of its economy. This will only succeed if the country engages in deep reforms and opens up to the EU and the West.
It is therefore not surprising that Syria has already quite some time ago accepted initialling the Association Agreement with the EU, containing a series of tough conditions. But the EU is unwilling to sign it as long as the Hariri case is not cleared and political repression continues. Its role in the Euro-MED partnership is therefore more than shaky.Author : Eberhard Rhein