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European Commission - Press release
EU-Lebanon: turning challenges to opportunities
Beirut, 28 October 2011 - "The changes in the Arab world are offering a chance to advance also our cooperation with Lebanon," Commissioner Štefan Füle said during his first visit to Beirut. On Thursday and Friday he met the president Michel Sleiman, speaker of the parliament Nabih Berri, prime minister Nagib Mikati, minister of foreign affairs Adnan Mansur and other members of the government. In the discussions Mr Füle stressed the willingness of the European Union to strengthen relations based on values and progress in the necessary reforms as well as on meeting the international obligations. "I am confident that the Lebanese government will find the way how to respect and honour its international commitments including the financing of the Special tribunal for Lebanon (STL) " Commissioner Füle told his partners in Beirut.
In the context of the on going transformation in the region he noted that Lebanon should take advantage of the changes in its wider neighbourhood to the benefit of all people in country. Mr Füle also stated that these regional changes would need to be reflected also in the relations between the EU and Lebanon: "We can't have business as usual: we need to adapt our cooperation to new circumstances in the region. There are changes and challenges and we have to turn them into opportunities."
Mr Füle explained that the revised European neighbourhood policy (ENP) is reflecting this new situation; focuses on reforms and provides European assistance and support based on the progress achieved in line with the principle "more for more". In this regard commissioner Füle discussed the new Action plan which is the basis for EU-Lebanon cooperation. The current Action plan expires next spring and its revision will provide opportunity to define areas where results could be realistically achieved. "This new action plan should be based on the needs and priorities of Lebanon and be aimed at deepening reforms and democracy," Commissioner Füle said. He also met representatives of the local NGOs to whom he outlined the new instruments and approach the EU is using in the framework of the revised ENP to support the civil society as an important stakeholder in the democratic transition.
Commissioner Füle visited together with the President of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee, Mr. Abdel Majid Kassir, and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Mr. Salvatore Lombardo, the Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj el Barajneh where he inspected the newly constructed water-supply and sewage system funded by the European Union with a grant of Euro 4 million and serving the population of 28,000. He also had the opportunity to meet with several families who will soon be benefiting from the rehabilitation of their homes under a new EU-funded project of Euro 12 million. The Commissioner's visit to the camp coincided with the award of 75 new university scholarships for the Palestinian students, bringing the total number of Palestinians benefitting from the financial support of the EU Scholarship Fund to 341. The EU's ongoing support to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon amounts to over 40 milions euros.
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