European Union Ambassadors' meeting with
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, 7 February 2019
Excellency, Prime Minister Saad Hariri,
As expressed by the EU High Representative Mogherini a week ago, we warmly congratulate you on the formation of a new government carried by a broad consensus. We wish you and all parties involved the very best to take joint, swift action to address the many challenges ahead, in the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. We expect that a main task for your Government will be to resume the efforts to strengthen state institutions to ensure governance and reaffirm the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and exclusive authority of the Lebanese State. The European Union is standing ready to provide support to handle these challenges.
In 2018 we saw a further strengthening of relations between the European Union and Lebanon. This notably included the holding of parliamentary elections in May 2018. We appreciated the good cooperation of Lebanon with the European Union Election Observation Mission. The mission identified areas which need further improvement. This includes stronger campaign finance regulations, the adoption of temporary special measures to accelerate women’s political participation and regulating the access to the media. The European Union looks forward to working with the new government to implement these recommendations for the next elections.
The European Union welcomed your government's Capital Investment Plan at last year's CEDRE Conference and pledged large-scale support if necessary measures are taken.
We urge the Government of Lebanon to immediately implement the necessary economic and structural reforms to allow for the CIP's implementation. Electricity reform, the fiscal deficit and the fight against corruption need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. We underline how important it is to find sustainable, transparent solutions in this context, to relieve the state budget, as well as citizens, and encourage international investors. This will be an opportunity to jumpstart growth, create job opportunities and renovate infrastructures, in cooperation with private and public players. Moreover, we encourage the Government of Lebanon to maximize its efforts to activate the CEDRE follow-up mechanism.
In April last year, the European Union co-chaired the "Second Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region", where we acknowledged again Lebanon's extraordinary and exceptional effort in hosting more than 1 million refugees, which makes Lebanon a model to the world. There is a need to work together for an informed discussion regarding the return of Syrian refugees to their home country, which is the ultimate objective. This return needs to be safe, voluntary and dignified, otherwise it risks being counterproductive and preventing further returns in the future.
The European Union has allocated more than EUR 1.4 billion in assistance to Lebanon, including to refugees from Syria and to vulnerable host communities since the beginning of the crisis, of which EUR 320 million in 2018 alone. This comes in addition to the significant bilateral contributions from European Union Member States, bringing the total support to almost EUR 2.5 billion. Thus, the European Union is delivering on the commitments made at the London and Brussels Conferences.
The next Brussels Conference, which takes place next month, will be the opportunity to channel additional support from the international community and to support Lebanon's needs. Mindful of the burden Lebanon has been shouldering for eight years, we look forward to continuing our work with your government in response to this crisis.
In the fragile regional context, Lebanon's stability remains of paramount importance to the European Union. Therefore, we encourage a renewed commitment of the Council of Ministers on disassociation from any regional conflicts and wars and from internal affairs of Arab countries. It is crucial that Lebanon continues to fully implement its international obligations outlined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and condemns all violations of these resolutions, including those from Lebanese territory.
The LAF being the only legitimate armed forces of Lebanon, as enshrined in the Lebanese constitution and in the Taif agreement, the European Union continues its support to the LAF and to implement our commitments undertaken at the Rome II conference. The European Union encourages the Government of Lebanon to resume a national dialogue for a National Defense Strategy.
Security and resilient open societies go hand-in-hand and it is in the interest of our common security to invest in human rights and democracy, a key element in our relation. The nomination of the members of the National Human Rights Institute (NHRI) constituted an important step forward with regard to the operationalisation of this institute as well as the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture (NPM). We hope that both will receive the necessary budget and become active at the soonest and stand ready to provide project-based support.
As you continue your vital task of seeing Lebanon through important reforms and steering it away from political and institutional crises, in a difficult regional context, you can count on our support in your Government's work.