Lebanon: Declaration of the High Representative
The European Union and its Member States remain extremely concerned about the severe socioeconomic crisis in Lebanon and its impact on all of Lebanon’s vulnerable populations.
The national currency has lost almost all of its pre-crisis value, four in five people now live in poverty and electricity is only occasionally available. This situation has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the food and energy crisis resulting from the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
While there have been some positive developments, including the signature of a Staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 7 April and the timely conduct of legislative elections on 15 May, many challenges remain to be addressed by the Lebanese authorities to overcome this unprecedented crisis. The enactment of long overdue economic and governance reforms, in the framework of a fully-fledged IMF programme, needs to be the top priority. Such a programme is the only viable and credible solution to help Lebanon stabilise its economy, restore trust and provide the country with the assistance it needs to finally embark on a path of recovery and growth. The enactment of such a programme requires the swift adoption by the relevant Lebanese authorities of the necessary actions identified in the Staff-level agreement reached on 7 April.
Following the parliamentary elections of 15 May and the nomination of Najib Mikati as Prime minister-designate on 23 June, government formation is now imperative. The Parliament, the President and the new Government must take the necessary decisions to address the country’s unprecedented crisis. It is also of vital importance that the constitutional calendar be adhered to regarding the organisation of the presidential and subsequent municipal elections.
The EU is fully determined to continue encouraging and supporting Lebanon to take the necessary measures to exit this crisis. On 26 July, the Council adopted the decision to extend for one year the framework for targeted restrictive measures to address the situation in Lebanon. This framework provides for the possibility to impose individual sanctions (travel ban and asset freeze) against persons and entities responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon through persistently hampering the formation of a government or seriously undermining the holding of elections, undermining the implementation of critical economic reforms, or who are responsible for serious financial misconduct including corruption. The situation in Lebanon is kept under constant review. The decision to prolong the framework aims at preventing risks of further deterioration of the situation and at finding a way out of the crisis.
The EU and its Member States also recall that on 4 August, two years will have elapsed since the devastating explosion at the port of Beirut that claimed more than 220 lives. For the sake of justice and accountability, Lebanese authorities must now allow the investigation into this tragedy, which has been hampered and delayed repeatedly, to resume and produce results, without interfering in it.
The Lebanese authorities and the international community must continue working together on the complex and challenging issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The EU and its Member States commend Lebanon’s generosity, but call on the Lebanese authorities to avoid divisive rhetoric and to act constructively on this issue. They reiterate their position that international humanitarian law and the principle of non-refoulement as defined by UNHCR must be respected. The EU and its Member States will continue their efforts to address the underlying causes of the refugee and displacement crisis according to UN Security Council Resolution 2254, so as to allow Syrian refugees to be able to return home voluntarily, in a safe and dignified way, according to UNHCR standards. Conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and displaced persons, including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), are still not met in Syria. It is therefore for the Syrian regime to act in this regard to create such conditions.
The EU and its Member States welcome discussions between Lebanon and Israel on the delineation of their maritime boundary. A negotiated settlement would contribute to the region’s stability and prosperity. We encourage the parties to engage constructively and in good faith.
The EU and its Member States remain committed to continue assisting Lebanon in this hour of need. Since 2011, the EU has provided support worth around 2 billion euros, with more than 1 billion euros specifically to address the impact of the Syrian crisis in Lebanon, supporting refugees from Syria and vulnerable Lebanese. The EU has recently stepped up its commitments in the country with 20 million euros in additional humanitarian funding as well as 25 million euros in terms of food security and resilience. We encourage other likeminded partners in the international community to engage constructively and help Lebanon emerge from its crisis. It is however essential that Lebanese leaders put the best interest of the Lebanese first and deliver on the necessary reforms, and do that as a matter of utmost urgency.