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Merci beaucoup. Français ? Anglais ? Pas Arabe ! Je peux commencer en français et puis continuer un peu en anglais; pour mon arabe je suis en train de le travailler un peu – mes fréquentes visites ici à Beyrouth peuvent m'aider dans ce contexte. Il est vrai, cher Ministre , cher ami, c'est je pense ma quatrième visite au cours de ces dernières années, parce que je vois pas seulement l'amitié entre nos peuples – les européens et les libanais – mais aussi l'intérêt stratégique que l'Europe a à soutenir le Liban, ses institutions, et tous les libanais.
C'est un engagement que l'Europe reconfirme aujourd'hui même plus qu'avant. Lors de toutes mes précédentes visites je me souviens très bien que l'une des questions fondamentales que nous avions abordées était celle de l'élection du président du Liban et aujourd'hui c'est vrai que nous accueillons favorablement le fait que le Président [Michel] Aoun ait été élu, qu'un nouveau gouvernement, avec son chef de gouvernement M. [Saad] Hariri est en place, travaille, que le Parlement, de ce que je sais, est en train de travailler avec un rythme très intense. Cela je pense est très important pour que toute la populationdu Liban puisse bénéficier d'institutions qui soient inclusives et qui fonctionnent bien pour le bien du pays et de la population.
This is why the main message I am bringing here with my visit - which I wanted to be an early visit after the election of President Aoun and the formation of the new government - is a message of support. This European support has always been there, in moments that were more difficult, in the moments that signal a new institutional set-up, and will continue to be there.
It is a political support, as I said, to inclusive, functioning institutions that guarantee the delicate, fragile balance, fragile but resilient balance of this wonderful country. And we are looking forward to accompanying also the next Parliamentary elections in the forms that the Lebanese authorities will desire.
We look also with a lot of attention at your internal debates on the change of the electoral law and we are confident that institutions including the Parliament will continue to function in the most effective way.
Our support goes also to Lebanon, its institutions and its people, when it comes to the difficult challenge of hosting so many Syrian refugees and not only Syrian refugees, also Palestinian refugees. But as far as the Syrian refugees are concerned, the support that the European Union has given to Lebanon since the beginning of the Syrian war amounts to more than 1.1 billion euros, out of which about 800 million dedicated specifically to the support of the Syrian refugees and the Lebanese hosting communities. Because we know very well from our experience that hosting such a large number of people needs accompanying measures to make sure that the Lebanese can find jobs, have access to schools and to all services, but also that the Syrian refugees can live good lives.
And our support to Lebanon touches key sectors that are related to our bilateral relations. As you mentioned two very concrete and key projects for us: our cooperation on counter-terrorism and security and our work on trade and I could mention many others. This strong bilateral relationship, this strong bilateral cooperation and partnership is also clearly symbolised in the fact that Lebanon was the first country in the region to reach an agreement with the European Union on our partnership priorities during your visit in Brussels just a few months ago.
So, we will continue working together, including on the regional dynamics and the crises we have around us. We discussed, as we always do every time we meet because it is true I am a frequent flyer here but we also meet often at the margins of international and regional events, and this is always a pleasure.
We will continue working together, trying to find political solutions to the crisis in Syria first of all, where I am confident that a political solution for a power-sharing and an inclusive system of governance can be found, and that could open the way for a different era, not only for Syria and for Syrians, including the refugees, but also for the neighbouring countries and the region.
And I hope that the Brussels Conference we will host in April can be the moment when we could start looking ahead, somehow turning the page and see if on the basis of a political transition, the international community can start working on the reconstruction. For this we will need to have the right political conditions but I count on the fact that all our interlocutors in the region and obviously our friends in the international community share our vision of the need to find a political solution to the crisis.
We also shared, and I conclude with that, the priority to find a solution to the Middle East crisis. You know well that us Europeans we always put the Palestinian issue on top of our agenda. For us it is essential that a way to re-open negotiations and find a viable solution based on two States is found and our work in this direction is constant on a daily basis, in particular with the parties. And I would like to recognise here the key role that the Arab Peace Initiative can play in any future settlement. I have always referred to the Arab Peace Initiative as a key element on which also the work we are doing with the Quartet is based and in this I also know that we are on the same page.
So, looking forward to continuing this strong partnership and cooperation, looking forward to continuing to working together, with you as a Minister but also with the new government in its entirety, with the Parliament, with the President. Trying to bring the best to the region, to the people of Lebanon, and this is also the best and smartest way also to bring good news to the Europeans because as I often say, and this is also why I come so often, we are in the same region, we are neighbours, we share the same sea and we also share so much of the same culture. And it is essential for us that, more than a partnership, we build a friendship and on the basis of this friendship we continue to work together.
Link to the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I132320