The seventh EU-Lebanon Association Council: Strengthened Partnership in Challenging Times
The European Union-Lebanon Association Council took place on 9 February in Brussels. This is the seventh meeting since the entry into force of the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement in 2006.
The Association Council provided a timely opportunity to discuss responses to Lebanon's extraordinary political, security, humanitarian, economic and social challenges, as well as to take stock of the overall development of the bilateral relations and the implementation of the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement and the ENP Action Plan. It was also an opportunity to exchange views on the situation in the Middle East region.
At the meeting, both sides signed the Protocol to the Association Agreement enabling Lebanon's participation in EU. Participation of ENP partners in EU programmes -and agencies- is meant to promote reform and modernisation in the EU's neighbourhood and strengthen administrative and regulatory convergence of partner countries with the EU. In order to participate in specific programmes, partner countries sign an agreement on modalities with the European Commission.
The European side reiterated the EU's commitment to Lebanon's unity, stability, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly given the deteriorating situation in Syria and instability in the region. The European Union recalled the essential importance of ensuring an effective functioning of Lebanon's institutions in line with its constitutional framework. The EU remains fully aware of the immense security challenges that the crisis in Syria poses to Lebanon in particular. It reiterated its commitment to seek ways to further enhance the ongoing EU and member States' support. The EU commended the determination of the Lebanese security forces to protect the stability and security of Lebanon and to respond to these security threats with joint forces. The EU also praised the considerable efforts of Lebanon to provide shelter to refugees from Syria and reiterated its commitment to continue to help Lebanon to provide assistance to refugees and vulnerable host communities. The EU emphasized the importance of the rich and inclusive political society in Lebanon and its vibrant civil society, and underscored the need for this model to be supported for the sake of the future of the region.
For its part, the Lebanese delegation expressed Lebanon's attachment to its relations with the EU, and its willingness to promote them on various fields, commensurate with the historic political, economic and cultural ties which join the two sides. Lebanon expressed its appreciation for EU support, both in development and humanitarian funds, and hoped for a further enhance of the ongoing support, including to adequately address the emerging security challenges. The Lebanese side emphasized the heavy spillover effect of the Syrian crisis, in terms of security and the massive influx of Syrian nationals to Lebanon, which constitute a challenge to the national interests of the country. Lebanon, as a long term partner, expressed its interest to actively contribute to the ongoing reflection on the ENP review through various fora, as appropriate.
The Association Council discussed the second ENP Action Plan which Lebanon and the EU started implementing, in practice, from the beginning of 2013, before its formal adoption in June 2014. Since the last Association Council meeting, the intensity of EU-Lebanon relations had been reconfirmed by a series of high-level visits and the continuation of the regular dialogue. Besides two meetings of the Association Committee, numerous meetings of sub-committees took place, and a dialogue on migration and mobility was launched. Both sides welcomed the comprehensive discussions which involved extensive consultations of Lebanese ministries, EU services and civil society in both Lebanon and Europe.
The European Union and Lebanon also recognised the importance of moving ahead to the full extent currently possible towards implementing the jointly agreed objectives of the Action Plan, which are based on Lebanon's reform agenda. Their achievement will bring important benefits to the Lebanese population in the economic, social and political fields, as well as for the European Union.
The EU-Lebanon Association Council was chaired by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini. The European Commission was represented by Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and Enlargement Negotiations. The Lebanese side was represented by Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Alain Hakim, Minister of Economy and Trade, who is the focal point for the ENP in the Lebanese Government, and Arthur Nazarian, Minister of Energy and Hydraulic Resources, also attended the meeting.