CNA News

Von der Leyen announces €1 bln financial support package for Lebanon

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday announced a one billion EUR financial support package for Lebanon, for the security and stability of the country, noting that the EU counts on Beirut’s cooperation to prevent illegal migration and combat migrant smuggling.

Von der Leyen visited Beirut with Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides for talks with the Lebanese Government about the management of flows of Syrian migrants staying in Lebanon, to Cyprus.

After a tripartite meeting with Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, and President Christodoulides, von der Leyen, announced a financial package of €1 billion EUR for Lebanon, that would be available from this year until 2027. “We want to contribute to Lebanon’s socio-economic stability”, she said, noting that they discussed how to strengthen political and economic relations, and support the security and stability of Lebanon.

“First, by strengthening basic services such as education, social protection, and health, for the people in Lebanon”, she said.

The European Commission President, also said that the EU would “accompany” Lebanon as it takes forward economic, financial and banking reforms, noting that these were key for the long-term improvement of the overall economic situation of the country. Lebanon needs a positive economic momentum to give opportunities to its businesses and citizens, she said, among other things.

She also noted that, security and stability were also key for investment and that the Commission would support the Lebanese Armed Forces and other security forces, mainly on providing equipment and training for border management. In addition, she said, “it would be very helpful for Lebanon to conclude a Working Arrangement with Frontex, particularly on information exchange and situational awareness.”

To help Lebanon in managing migration, she added, “we are committed to maintain legal pathways open to Europe, and resettle refugees from Lebanon to the EU”. “At the same time, we count on your good cooperation to prevent illegal migration and combat migrant smuggling”, von der Leyen said.

She also said that it was vital to ensure the well-being of host communities and Syrian refugees, noting that, since 2011, the EU has supported Lebanon with €2.6 billion, not only for the Syrian refugees, but also for the host communities. “And we will continue supporting you”, she said, adding that they would also look at how to make the EU’s assistance more effective. At the same time, she said, there needs to be strengthened support from the international community, for humanitarian and early recovery programmes in Syria.

In his statements, President Christodoulides, said he was “honoured to be part of this historic day.”

“I am very confident that this package announced today will help enhance the capacity of the Lebanese authorities to handle various challenges including controlling land and maritime borders, ensuring the safety of its citizens, fight against people smuggling, and continue their fight against terrorism”, he added.

He noted that this visit and announcements were “not only very important in terms of substance”, but also in terms of symbolism, since von der Leyen was the first President of the European Commission to visit Lebanon. “The EU clearly states that it is actively present and that it will continue to be at the side of Lebanon”, he said.

Today, he said, “we are taking an important step in making Lebanon stronger. We are also taking an important step in further strengthening the bond between the EU and Lebanon, so that we can better address joint challenges”. He said that Cyprus and he personally have been one of the strongest proponents for further enhancing the EU-Lebanon relationship.

“The current situation is not sustainable for Lebanon and it is not sustainable for Cyprus, it is not sustainable for the EU”, he said, noting that peace, stability and prosperity in Lebanon “will only come if we all fulfill our commitments”.

In this context, he underlined the importance of actively engaging to potentially re-start the discussions for the conclusion of the Partnership Priorities between the European Union and Lebanon, to facilitate cooperation at operational and technical level between Lebanon and Frontex, to implement the necessary and thorough reforms in line with IMF requests and to also address issues of accountability.

He also said that Cyprus will continue to be supportive of Lebanon’s efforts to elect a new President, “a development that will represent an enormous political and symbolic message of change and of moving forward.”

“A more peaceful, a more stable, a more prosperous Lebanon is essential for the whole of Eastern Mediterranean, our immediate neighbourhood and the EU itself”, he said.

Mikati, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said that they did not want the country to become “an alternative homeland”, for the Syrian displaced, urging the European Union to find an immediate and radical solution to this predicament.

He also said, among other things, that they devoted the largest part of the meeting to the issue of the Syrian displaced on Lebanese territory as well as to the cooperation between Lebanon, Cyprus, and the EU to address this issue “and its direct and indirect repercussions.”