Your Excellency Minister of Environment, Mohamad Machnouk,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Many things have happened in the last week, and we feel a breeze of optimism in the country after the Lebanese parliament elected a new President and appointed Saad Hariri to lead a new government. We all now want to look ahead and work together on handling the many challenges that the new government and functioning institutions should deal with.
But I think you all will agree with me that sometimes we also need to look back and close a chapter from the past. And this is what we are celebrating here today.
Four years ago, as an answer to the call for support raised by the Lebanese Ministry of Environment, the European Union committed to finance the treatment and cleaning of the remaining 2,100 cubic meters of oily waste resulting from the terrible oil spill of 2006 over the Lebanese coast. A budget of €1.2 million was earmarked to this end. As you know, many other developments took place in the meantime, and I think it is fair to say that we all focused on other huge challenges in Lebanon that needed our attention and finance. However, we never forgot our promise to assist Lebanon with this particular matter which we finally hope to be able to close with this project.
In Europe we know all too well that wars and conflict create irreparable human suffering. Its scars take decades to heal and both political courage and perseverance are required to overcome the divisions created by conflict. Our message today is that we as EU are willing to make our contribution to healing the scars of war also in the Middle East region, helping protect the unique Lebanese sea shore environment, which belongs to the Lebanese people.
Since 2006, the Lebanese coast has been endangered by the remaining waste that we see here placed in containers which are now seriously beginning to leak. As we know, after the oil spill, yearly Resolutions from the United Nations General Assembly have underlined that the cleaning of such waste should have been compensated financially by another party. But this did not materialise. This is why the European Union decided to move in.
In a few months, the Greek company (Polyecogroup) being awarded today's project will have treated and cleaned the solid waste stored here and on the sites of Jiyeh and Zahrani power plants. The liquid waste stored close to the Zouk power plant will be treated as well.
I wish to congratulate the Ministry of Environment for its active collaboration with the European Union for so many years, and in particular today for its commitment to get rid of this oil waste, according to the highest environmental and safety standards.
By finalising this operation, we will all together contribute to closing a dark page of the recent history of Lebanon and of the region, as dark as the oil spill itself. I trust that you share with me the wish that such dramatic events will never occur again.
Today Lebanon has a new President, and hopefully very soon a new Prime Minister and a new Government. The resumption of the normal work of the Lebanese institutions is a positive signal for Lebanese citizens, as well as for the international community. It should be followed by the timely holding of Parliamentary elections next year. This should encourage us to work even harder and contribute together to writing brighter pages of Lebanon's history.
Thank you for your attention.