An overview of relations between Lebanon and the European Union
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The European Union and Lebanon enjoy close political relations in the framework of an Association Agreement between the two, which has been in force since April 2006. This partnership is based on common values and interests, regular political, security, economic and social dialogue, wide-ranging people-to-people contacts, and substantial development and humanitarian assistance.
The EU-Lebanon Agreement promotes human rights, political dialogue, free movement of goods, and economic, social and cultural cooperation. The EU is committed to supporting democracy, good governance, social inclusion, education and sustainable development in Lebanon.
European support for democracy and the rule of law in Lebanon takes various forms. The EU is promoting the development of independent, effective and accountable public institutions, particularly the justice system and penitentiary administration. Furthermore, the EU supports Lebanese civil society as a vital partner for political decision-making. The European institutions maintain regular dialogue with this group, which is well placed to know the population's real needs in terms of human rights, good governance and development.
The EU also has a strong interest in reinforcing the Lebanese State and making the country a factor for regional stability. In particular, the EU cooperates with all Lebanese security agencies with the goal of promoting national cohesion and the role of the State as sole legitimate security provider. Political dialogue between the EU and Lebanon promotes cooperation aimed at establishing peace, stability and security in the country.
Disputes concerning the Agreement are settled before the Association Council, an Association Committee, and ten sectoral subcommittees, each made up of European and Lebanese representatives.
The European Union and Lebanon have close economic relations, which have been strengthened by the Association Agreement in force since April 2006.
For Lebanon, the Agreement opens up special access to the vast European single market. The opening of Lebanon’s own market will furthermore stoke the country’s economic modernisation. This means employment and business opportunities for young people, and entrenching Lebanon’s position as a leading financial centre in the Middle East. Lebanon also benefits from increased access to European financial assistance and technology transfer.
For the EU, the Agreement means greater opportunities to provide goods and services to the Lebanese market, and access to the country’s resources.
The Agreement furthermore requires the Lebanese Government to carry out financial, economic, and administrative reforms. Product sectors must also be modernised, in order to be in line with European and international standards. Lebanon undertakes to improve the local climate for international business and investment.
The European Union is Lebanon’s most important trading partner, making up about a third of Lebanese trade. The EU-Lebanon trade relations are governed by the Association Agreement in force since 2006. Based on the Interim Agreement, which entered into force in 2003, entailing an immediate enforcement of the Association Agreement’s economic and trade provisions, the EU and Lebanon progressively liberalised trade in goods, with a view to creating a bilateral Free Trade Area. As a result, Lebanese industrial products as well as most agricultural products benefit from free access to the EU market.
The Agreement also strengthens Lebanon’s position in its negotiations to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an ambition the EU strongly supports.
The European Union provides significant financial aid and technical assistance to Lebanon. The financial allocation for EU-Lebanon cooperation for 2014-2016 amounts to €132 million (€44 million per year). Aid focuses on three areas: reform of the justice and security system; social cohesion, sustainable economic development and vulnerable groups; and sustainable and transparent management of energy and natural resources. There are also two cross-cutting areas: complementary support for capacity building and for civil society.
To ensure Lebanon’s ownership of its development agenda, the EU works mainly through national institutions. EU bilateral assistance offers predictability: financial envelopes are defined for several years and allow for continuous support for development and reform, in accordance with the jointly defined Action Plan. Part of the assistance provided by the EU is also channelled through civil society organisations and local authorities.
The EU provides support to the Lebanese Government, judiciary, and municipalities. European educational assistance to Lebanon focuses on reducing drop-out rates and skills mismatch. This is also aimed at preventing the large-scale emigration of skilled Lebanese, and the replacement of the local workforce by refugees or migrant workers.
The EU provides financial support to civil society, to protect fundamental freedoms and strengthen the democratisation process, either through programmes with the government or through bilateral programmes with civil society organisations. There is also support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The EU has also become the largest donor in the field of mine action, including support for the Lebanese Mine Action Centre.
The EU is major donor for Crisis Response, Recovery and Stabilisation. Humanitarian assistance is provided through the European Commission’s Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO). The Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) is the main mechanism through which the EU supports crisis preparedness and management, peace-building and reconciliation initiatives.
The EU is working to improve the legal rights and living conditions of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Support is mainly channelled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), but also through non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Since 2011, the European Commission has allocated an additional EUR 769 million to the response in Lebanon to the spill-over of the Syrian crisis. A large part of non-humanitarian aid for Syria’s neighbouring countries to cope with the refugee crisis is channelled through the EU Regional Trust Fund (MADAD). The Trust Fund primarily addresses longer-term resilience needs of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, notably Lebanon.
In addition to the above regular and exceptional funding, Lebanon benefits from other cooperation mechanisms, including:
European assistance in Lebanon is also directly provided by EU countries, as well as by European financial institutions, including the European Investment Bank (EIB).
NGOs can continuously monitor open and scheduled calls for proposals (and the respective guidelines for applicants) at the following link: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/europeaid/online-services/index.cfm