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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso following his meeting with Najib Mikati, Prime Minister of Lebanon
Brussels, 26 April 2012
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon to the European Commission today. We had a very good conversation, very open and frank, very constructive and very sincere. And it is indeed this kind of conversations that I appreciate with heads of government that are so kind to come here to Brussels to engage in these talks with us.
Lebanon is a longstanding partner of the European Union and an active member of our Neighbourhood Policy.
I would like to commend the Prime Minister's leadership in maintaining peace and stability in his country since taking office last July. This has been achieved against a challenging regional background. The European Union supports peace and stability in the region and is firmly behind those who are committed to a democratic and peaceful path.
We are indeed making our efforts in the region and today's meeting from that point of view was fruitful and constructive. I had the opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister a strong message of support but also of encouragement to continue with the necessary political, economic and social reforms. We are convinced in Europe that the best way to ensure long term stability is precisely this kind of reforms. Indeed in the past few months, Lebanon took important steps to advance the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) agenda, but we also believe we can do even more.
An ambitious reform agenda is key to sustain and improve the stability and progress that the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese people have fought hard for. And the EU is ready to support this process. Indeed, we have started negotiations on a new ENP Action Plan which will be built on the pillars of the revised ENP and on the Lebanese Government's indicated priorities. So, this is a walk we will walk together and precisely part of our meeting was devoted to this! The Prime Minister was explaining to us where he sees the priorities, where he believes that working with us can bring value to our cooperation. I promised him to work with Lebanon on concrete results inside this framework. Just after this press point there will be another meeting with Commissioner Füle regarding the issues of our neighbourhood agenda.
To support the deepening of Lebanese democracy, I am pleased to announce that we are allocating an additional contribution of € 30 million in the framework of our SPRING (Support for Partnership, Reform and Inclusive Growth) instrument. This will come on top of this year's allocation to Lebanon of € 62 million. The message that we are sending is very clear: we stand by Lebanon. But as the Prime Minister very clearly said, the question is more than the economic or financial support. It is about reforms, it is also about technical assistance, it is also about sharing experience in many areas and I have committed the Commission and the European Union to work on these matters with our Lebanese partners.
I have also encouraged the Prime Minister to advance Lebanon's World Trade Organization (WTO) accession process. This is an important step to allow Lebanon to reap the full potential of its relationship with the European Union.
During our meeting we also had the opportunity to address topics of common concern such as the situation in the region. We of course discussed Syria. The EU strongly supports the mission of the Joint UN-Arab League Envoy, as well as its six point plan and the UN observation mission currently on the ground. The EU and its Member States stand ready to provide support to the UN observer mission to supervise the cessation of violence.
As I said in other occasions, the priority is a complete stop to violence and full and unhindered access to humanitarian aid. Lebanon has been supportive in providing protection and assistance to displaced people fleeing from Syria and we pay tribute to the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese people for their support.
To conclude, I would like to convey to the Prime Minister our firm commitment to continue working together for the benefit of Lebanon and the Lebanese people and to make our ties even stronger.
I thank you for your attention.