Lebanon

Remarks by President Charles Michel at the International conference in support of the Lebanese people, 4 August 2021

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Dear President, Dear Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation, Dear President Aoun,

Thank you for organising this third conference in support of the Lebanese people.

And I would like to thank France, and particularly you, President Macron, for all your efforts in such difficult circumstances.

A tragedy, and a stalled investigation

Today marks the first anniversary of the tragic explosion in the port of Beirut. This devastation has hit Lebanon terribly, and it has shaken us all in Europe. I had indeed the opportunity to see the extent of this tragedy for myself when I visited Beirut a few days after the explosion.

The Lebanese authorities have not yet shed any light on this tragedy. This is regrettable. The families of the victims, and all the Lebanese people are still waiting for answers.

The EU once again calls on the Lebanese authorities to produce results without delay in the investigation into the causes of the explosion.

The Lebanese multi-crisis

Lebanon is sinking deeper and deeper into a crisis that is political, social, economic and financial. And it is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The social impact is catastrophic. Poverty levels have increased dramatically: 55% of the population lives below the poverty line; food insecurity is worsening, and the health system is on the verge of implosion.

The European Union has always stood by the Lebanese people.

The Union has committed to supporting the Lebanese people by all means at its disposal: humanitarian aid, annual bilateral assistance to Lebanon or through the regional trust fund in response to the Syrian crisis.

In total, the EU has mobilised € 170 million as an immediate response to the explosion.

In addition, in close cooperation with the UN and the World Bank, the EU is involved in the implementation of the Reforms, Recovery and Reconstruction (3RF) operational framework.

Looking to the future, it is now essential that the funds invested by the international community in Lebanon support a fair and sustainable socio-economic recovery in the country. The close involvement of civil society is also crucial.

Much-needed reforms

Following the appointment of Mr. Najib Mikati as Prime Minister last week, it is high time for Lebanon now to form a government that can implement the priority reforms that the country urgently needs.

There is also a need to prepare for the elections scheduled for 2022, which must be held as planned.

Macroeconomic and budgetary measures remain urgent and of crucial importance. As does an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which remains the only solution to this deep crisis.

I would also like to stress the importance of governance reforms. Especially in the fields of fighting against corruption, the judicial system, or public procurement. These are areas where the EU has already provided support. And these reforms are essential for a sustainable recovery of the country.

And let's be frank: international assistance will depend on tangible progress in the implementation of reforms.

On the EU side, we have been working on all options to help Lebanon out of the crisis. We have positive instruments, such as access to concessional loans and loan guarantees or macro-financial assistance once the measures recommended by the IMF are implemented.

But means of pressure are also on the table: a sanctions framework was adopted a few days ago in order to target those in Lebanon who obstruct efforts to end the political crisis. We obviously hope that we will not be obliged to activate it.

In the medium term, Lebanon needs a sustainable economic and social development model. This is a reflection that belongs to the Lebanese themselves.

This process could be accompanied by political reforms aimed at strengthening public institutions and escaping from confessionalism.

Dear President, dear friends,

Lebanon has been for centuries a model of peaceful coexistence between different communities, a model for the region and for the world.

The Lebanese people can count on the EU's support.

But we are convinced that what we need today is trust and accountability.

The Lebanese people must be able to count on political leaders who are totally committed to do their part and to mobilize their contribution to a better future of the people of this country we all love.

Nothing will be possible without that.

Thank you again Mr President for this initiative and for your unwavering commitment towards this country, this people and the whole region.