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Brussels, 5 March 2013
Press points by Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, at the end of his Lebanon visit
I have had very good discussions with Prime Minister Miqati, President Sleiman, with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Social Affairs as well as with representatives of civil society and UN agencies yesterday and today.
But if you ask me what was the most impressive moment of my visit - it was the time I spent at the UNHCR registration centre for refugees and at the UNRWA headquarters where I had the opportunity to interact with refugees from Syria and with Palestinians.
It was quite important for me to able to bring back to Brussels the real picture about what is going on.
In all my meetings I have delivered these two key messages:
1. Message of a strengthened relationship:
Since my last visit here (in October 2011) our relations have moved forward and have been marked by an unprecedented intensity of cooperation. Lebanon and the EU have succeeded in negotiating a new Action Plan for our mutual cooperation.
The Action Plan could be a good example also for other partners of the EU. It contains 13 clear priorities; it is a plan for the modernisation of Lebanon; it is a transparent and coherent way to make the support of the government and our support accountable to the citizens.
We support and encourage the process of reforms in Lebanon. We expect more progress and implementation of the necessary reforms, because it not only determines the level of support we will be providing, but first and foremost - it will be to the benefit of the country and people living here.
2. Message of understanding and solidarity:
We are very well aware of the many challenges Lebanon is facing both domestically and in its neighbourhood. One of the biggest domestic challenges is the upcoming elections:
The EU believes that these elections should be held on time as required by your Constitution and in line with international standards. It is necessary that the electoral reform is the result of a consensus among political parties and that the elections themselves unite rather than divide the people of Lebanon.
As for the external challenges, let me say few words about the influx of refugees from Syria.
We appreciate how Lebanon provides for their needs and protection in partnership with UN agencies, donors and humanitarian organisations. We, in the EU, trust that Lebanon will remain open for Syrian refugees, fleeing the unacceptable bloodshed.
At the same time it is clear that Lebanon cannot cope with this heavy burden all alone. The European Union is already the biggest donor of aid for refugees in Lebanon and today I announced additional support of 30 million euros to help Lebanon in managing the refugee crisis. This brings our total help so far to 70 million euros. And we remain committed to assisting further.
It is important that our help not only addresses the needs of the refugees but also of the Lebanese host communities as well.
We understand that the citizens of Lebanon are opening their arms to their brothers and sisters from Syria so they are undergoing a hardship and we want to help them to alleviate it.