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Europe considers sanctions against Syria

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Steve Chiotakis: Syrian troops today opened fire on thousands of protestors in several cities across the country. The violent crackdown comes as the Muslim holiday of Ramadan wraps up. Meanwhile, officials from the 27 countries that make up the European Union meet today in Brussels to talk about expanding sanctions against the Syrian government.

Marketplace’s Stephen Beard is with us live from London with the latest on that story. Hi, Stephen.

Stephen Beard: Hello Steve.

Chiotakis: So what sanctions are we talking about here?

Beard: A ban on doing business with Syrian companies that support the Assad regime. Specifically, they’re talking about Syrian companies in banking, telecoms, and energy. E.U. ministers have already reached a preliminary agreement on an oil embargo against Syria. Details of that are still being hammered out; final agreement is expected on the whole package by the end of this week.

Chiotakis: Is this going to have any effect, Stephen?

Beard: Of course there’s always doubt about the effectiveness of economic sanctions. For example, even though Syria sells 90 percent of its crude oil to the European Union, analysts point out China and India, who are not party to this sanctions package, would probably be happy to buy the oil instead.

But as Chris Philips of the Economist Intelligence Unit told the BBC, the E.U. sanctions could have some effect.

Chris Philips: It might actually persuade some members of the regime to turn on the leadership, recognizing that the economic consequences of them staying in power in the long run will damage the economy.

The U.S., by the way, has already imposed its own oil embargo, and a ban on American companies investing in Syria.

Chiotakis: Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London. Stephen, thank you.

Beard: OK, Steve.

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