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Brussels, 23 April 2009
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, said “Through the ENP we are offering Lebanon our full support to the implementation of its reform agenda endorsed in Paris two years ago." And she added: “The parliamentary elections in June are very important for the Lebanese democracy. This is why we are dedicating €4 million to implement the 2008 Lebanese electoral reform and to prepare these elections, and I have also decided to send an Election Observation Mission. I am confident that the elections will result in the formation of a stable government with whom we will continue to work together towards the modernisation of the country".
EU–Lebanon relations: basic facts
The EU-Lebanon Association Agreement entered into force in April 2006 and sets a framework for political dialogue, economic policy cooperation, the gradual establishment of a free trade area, and cooperation on social issues.
The Action Plan was adopted in January 2007. Institutional cooperation through the EU–Lebanon Association Council, the EU-Lebanon Association Committee and ten sub-committees was established; eight subcommittee meetings have already took place. The 4th Association Council took place in February 2009.
Overall context and major developments in 2008
The difficult political situation throughout the year slowed down the process of implementing the EU-Lebanon Action Plan. In May 2008 an agreement was reached by rival factions in Doha (Qatar) marking the end of an 18-month long political stalemate which erupted shortly after the military conflict between Israel and Hezbollah’s armed militia. This allowed the election of President Michel Sleimane and the formation of a national unity government under Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Despite these security and institutional improvements a legislative blockage prevailed throughout 2008 with several important draft laws not being debated by the Parliament (including competition policy and VAT, with the exception of the tax procedure code adopted in October). Progress in other fields (human rights, judicial reform, social sector reform, and administrative reform) was also slow. This situation has had an impact on the overall social, economic and political situation in the country as well as on the dialogue in the framework of the ENP.
Nevertheless, the Lebanese economy in 2008 has been quite resilient to the direct impact of the economic downturn, in particular as regards the effects of the financial crisis. The GDP growth was around 6%. The EU remained the first trading partner of Lebanon. Bilateral trade in goods with the EU continued to grow, amounting to more than EUR 4.2 billion in 2008. Imports from the EU grew by 17.8 % while exports increased by 16.4 %.
It is worth noting that the first step towards normalisation of relations with Syria was taken in October 2008 by the official establishment of diplomatic relations and the appointment of respective ambassadors which took place in early 2009.
Some examples how the EU supports reforms in Lebanon
The European Commission through its Delegation in Beirut continued to organise inter-Lebanese fora in order to build a reform consensus and enable representatives of the parliamentary blocs and political parties and of the key economic sectors and trades unions to work towards a common vision of Lebanon's socio-economic future.
In 2008, the European Union continued its support aiming at the reconstruction and reinvigoration of the country. Thanks to EC-funded projects 1.9 million square meters of land were cleared from landmines bringing those areas back to economic activity. Experts reported that the number of casualties from cluster munitions fell significantly in the last 2 years. In addition Lebanon signed the Cluster Munitions Treaty in December 2008.
€32 million was allocated to assist local stakeholders in their reconstruction and recovery efforts. €18 million has been devoted to the reinvigoration mainly in the form of infrastructure projects promoting local development strategies in North Lebanon. It allowed also work on the re-establishment of the Vessel Traffic System (destroyed during the 2006 military conflict). The Commission has also allocated €14 million to reinforce the competitiveness of the Lebanese private sector through inter alia assistance to innovative start-ups (via the Business Development Centres or by the creation of a Seed Capital Guarantee Scheme).
The European Commission is preparing a project aiming at increasing the efficiency and independence of the judiciary. The project will support, among other things, the implementation of an IT Master Plan at the Lebanese judiciary and provide specialized trainings to judges, lawyers and clerks.
In response to the call made by the Lebanese Government, the European Commission devoted €8 million to support the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp reconstruction plan presented at the conference in Vienna in June 2008. The EU has in total provided over €50 million (€30 million from the community budget and an additional €20 million from the Member States) to assist the displaced refugees with humanitarian assistance (health, water, sanitation and shelters), clear rubble from and rebuild the camp. The EC continued also the financing of scholarships for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In total up to 130 students will have the possibility to study.
In December 2008 a Trade Needs Assessment was launched at the Ministry of Economy and Trade with the support of the European Commission, aiming at exploring areas with export potential to the EU and further identifying the constraints facing Lebanon’s integration into the world trade system
Assistance to Lebanon
In 2008, the European Commission continued to support the national reform efforts in Lebanon and programmed assistance for a total amount of €50 million under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).
This support was a part of an indicative amount of €187 million, which has been allocated for the period 2007-10 under the ENPI.
Other Community Instruments supplement the ENPI assistance package. Through the Instrument for Stability, more than €4 million was made available to help political stabilization and national reconciliation, via a feasibility study on electoral reform, technical assistance to the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and the provision of electoral equipment in anticipation of the elections of June 2009.
The Communication from the Commission to the Parliament and the Council Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2008 (23 April 2009) and a country report on Lebanon are available at
More on Lebanon and ENP
See also IP/09/625 EU reinforces ties with its neighbours and continues to support their reforms.