Bassil signs in Belgium a protocol that allows Lebanon to partake in EU specialized programs

FEBRUARY 9, 2015 (REFERRING TO THE NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY – LEBANON) Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, and the European Union’s Higher Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, initialed Monday a special protocol that allows Lebanon to participate in the 12 specialized programs for EU Member States in different fields.

The protocol was signed at the European Council’s headquarters at the end of the Lebanese-EU Association Council meeting, which was chaired on the European side by Mogherini, in presence of EU’s Expansion and Neighborhood Policy Commissioner, Johannes Hahnn, and on the Lebanese side by Minister Bassil, in presence of Economy and Trade Minister, Alain Hakim.

During the meeting, Bassil disclosed Lebanon’s intention to hold a regional review of the Neighborhood Policy in a conference to be held in Beirut next spring, with the participation of Arab Mediterranean countries and the European Union. The EU Commissioner welcomed said initiative, noting that “it reveals Lebanon’s central role in its region and the international aspects of the Lebanese diplomacy.”

In a joint press conference following the protocol initialing, Bassil said “We had a day of fruitful talks between Lebanon and the European Union within the framework of the European Partnership Council meetings, during which we discussed bilateral relations that have witnessed a remarkable development to-date.”

“We have expressed Lebanon’s desire to promote future prospects for cooperation, commensurate with the available capacity of both parties,” he added.

Bassil expressed Lebanon’s gratitude to the EU for its support, hoping “for more help in the future, as needs and challenges are increasing in the region.”

On the other hand, Bassil pointed to the huge challenges facing Lebanon at this stage, noting that “Terrorism is hitting Lebanon, targeting its social fabric,” and added “the Lebanese armed forces are confronting it, backed by all Lebanese people.”

“The other challenge facing Lebanon is the abnormal flow of Syrian refugees, which has become a political, security and economic burden in a manner that threatens the Lebanese model and its stability,” said Bassil.

“At such difficult times during which ideologies of darkness are overwhelming the region, we emphasize that a country like Lebanon, in its aspects of moderation, forgiveness and comprehensive society, stands as a role model for non-legitimizing the invitations to war in the name of religion,” stressed Bassil.

“The Lebanese model today is under tremendous pressure and therefore, should be supported in order to ensure the future of the region,” added Bassil.

For her part, Mogherini said “We had political talks with Minister Bassil and discussed a number of common points, whereby we expressed the European Commission’s support for the unity, stability and independence of Lebanon and the sovereignty of its territories.”

“We also discussed the situation in Syria and its impact on the region,” added Mogherini, noting that “we re-emphasize the need to activate the work of Lebanese institutions within the constitutional framework.”

“The EU takes seriously the security challenges posed by the Syrian crisis on Lebanon, in particular, especially the fact that the army plays an essential role in protecting Lebanon’s stability and security, and addressing security threats in conjunction with the rest of the armed forces,” Mogherini went on.

She added that “Lebanon is making an effort to secure a safe haven for Syrian refugees as it hosts the largest number of them.”

“The European Union is ready to provide support for Lebanon in face of such challenges, as it already extended in the past year a humanitarian aid worth 180 million Euros, and another 37 million Euros’ aid was declared last week,” Mogherini indicated.

She stressed that “the European Commission has adopted a strategy to help Iraq and Syria in the fight against Daesh, helping these countries and their neighbors, including Lebanon, to secure and develop safe and humane areas.”

“Our joint work against terrorism will be strengthened, and the EU remains the region’s first supporter, in light of shared challenges and concerns,” Mogherini added.