Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, on the EU’s engagment with Lebanon and the future of joint relations.
In October of 2011 I visited Beirut to meet with President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, to hear their views and assessment of the current situation in Lebanon and the region. Our meetings were very constructive, and I was encouraged to hear about the reforms that the government has launched so far. I was pleased to note that the Ministerial statement issued on the occasion included an explicit reference to deepening Lebanon’s relations with the EU. For its part, the EU has welcomed the formation of the government in July 2011 and expressed expectation that Lebanon will fulfill its international obligations and continue on its path to reform.
These international obligations include the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and international agreements, including on human rights, the process of international justice, and effective cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Lebanon must provide a safe environment for UNIFIL to carry out its mandate and ensure the protection of its citizens as well as foreigners and refugees on its soil.
We are witnessing historical changes in the region. People stood up for their rights and legitimate aspirations. Today, democracy is being built where there was tyranny yesterday. And where there were fundaments of democracy, people are willing to deepen it in order to regain dignity and their basic legitimate rights like freedom to express themselves. This is a truly impressive process that goes for the benefit of all, and Lebanon with its population should be part of it.
The EU is supporting this process and these aspirations so that every single person in Lebanon (but also anywhere else) can benefit from it. We are very well aware of the many challenges Lebanon is facing: unity and stability of the country, national dialogue, and complex relations with its neighbors.
That’s why we have revised the European Neighborhood policy, so that we could help in more effective ways to deal with all those challenges. We are offering this help to the government, to the political parties, and to civil society too, because in our new approach, civil society is as important a partner for us as the political interlocutors. The events in the region have reminded us of the need to work jointly on reinforcing deep democracy in Lebanon. I discussed the EU’s willingness to support electoral reform and other measures to consolidate the accountability and independence of all national democratic institutions.
The EU’s revised approach to the European Neighborhood Policy has underlined our commitment to work closer with countries that are ready to strengthen democracy and advance reforms. The more and faster Lebanon progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU.
© The Business Year