Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets European Union Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf. (Photo: Dalati & Nohra)

EU ready to support Mikati’s reform plan, “will always stand by Lebanon”

The European Union (EU) is ready to support the Lebanese government’s rescue plan from its worst ever economic and financial crisis, said EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf on Tuesday.

“We particularly encourage the government in its efforts to address the economic crisis that the country is passing through, and the European Union will always stand by Lebanon,” said Tarraf.

Tarraf met with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, alongside ambassadors and representatives of around 20 EU member countries including Spain, Denmark, France, Italy, Poland, and Cyprus.

Mikati briefed the attendees on the government’s financial recovery plan and discussed cooperation between Lebanon and the EU, a major trade partner to Beirut.

“There is something worthy of support,” said Tarraf about Mikati’s plan of action.

Earlier in September, the EU Parliament called Lebanon’s worsening crisis a “man-made disaster caused by a handful of men across the ruling political class” at a time when Lebanon had been in the hands of a caretaker government for 13-months due to disagreements over which political parties would lead key ministries.

The new cabinet recently formed a ministerial team to begin renegotiating with the International Monetary Fund on a bailout package to rescue the country, prompting Lebanon to engage in a series of talks with EU envoys. 

Negotiations between Lebanon and the IMF hit a roadblock in late 2020, mainly a result of Lebanese officials disagreeing on losses in the Central Bank.

The French envoy, the electricity crisis, and more

Several Lebanese officials met with different international representatives in the past week.

A French envoy represented by Ambassador Pierre Duquesne arrived in Lebanon on Monday. Duquesne began talks with Lebanese officials to help accelerate the government’s reform measures and its preparations to resume negotiations with the IMF.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Minister of Health, Dr. Firass Abiad, met on Wednesday with US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea. The ambassador described the talks as “very constructive” following the meeting. Abiad then received French Ambassador Duquesne.

Energy Minister Dr. Walid Fayyad travelled to Cairo, where he met with Egyptian PM Mostafa Madbouly and Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek el-Molla on Tuesday. The officials discussed the delivery of Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon and the reactivation of the trans-regional Arab Gas Pipeline to solve the electricity crisis.

“The procedures necessary to supply Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon are due to be completed within the coming few weeks,” said el-Molla.

Additionally, the German Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Niels Annen met with Lebanese officials on the same day to express Germany’s support for Lebanon and welcome the formation of a new government.

Annen, following the suit of other EU countries, also called on Lebanon to implement swift reforms, and stressed on the need to hold parliamentary elections on time.

Due to Lebanon’s three-fold crisis, many citizens have speculated that the March 2022 general election will not be held on time.

During this meeting, Aoun assured Annen that Lebanon had begun to contact the IMF for the implementation of immediate reforms, in tandem with a forensic audit of the Central Bank’s accounts, a key prerequisite for any kind of foreign aid.

Aoun on the Beirut Blast

Aoun also assured Annen that the investigation into the August 4 blast will resume, and welcomed any technical assistance which Germany could possibly provide in this context.

The investigation was previously thwarted when MPs and Beirut blast suspects Nohad Machnouk, Ghazi Zeaiter, and Ali Hassan Khalil had previously submitted requests to remove lead investigator Tarek Bitar from the case, but were denied by a Beirut appeals court. Several senior officials, including ex-PM Hassan Diab and former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos, failed to cooperate with Judge Bitar in recent weeks.

Annen expressed Germany’s support and sympathy towards the Lebanese people, while also stressing on the need to strengthen “bilateral relations in different fields,” especially considering Germany is the second largest donor country to Lebanon.

Annen said Germany’s new government will provide “the necessary support to Lebanon and will cooperate with the Lebanese government to achieve all that helps Lebanon’s advancement and stability.”

The German minister also met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib.