Lebanon Businessnews News

€1 billion EU grant to
deal with Syrian refugees
Targeting education, social security, and healthcare
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The European Union (EU) announced the granting of €1 billion during a visit to Beirut of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. The aid program to Lebanon will extend until 2027. Around three quarters of the cash (€736 million) aims to help the country grapple with the challenges it is facing in hosting Syrian refugees.

The announcement was made at the end of a summit that was primarily focused on the issue of Syrian migrants. Participants in the summit included von der Leyen, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, caretaker Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, and several Lebanese officials.

“Lebanon is full of energy and potential, but it faces many challenges, both internal and related to regional conflicts,” said von der Leyen from the Grand Serail. This meeting allowed us to “discuss how to develop political and economic relations,” between Beirut and Brussels, and financially support Lebanon.

"We understand the challenges that Lebanon faces with hosting Syrian refugees and other displaced persons. It is vital to ensure the well-being of host communities and Syrian refugees," von der Leyen said. She promised that the EU would explore ways to provide more effective assistance, particularly by considering facilitating a “more structured approach to voluntary returns” of displaced Syrians in cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The aid program is intended to support a range of initiatives across various sectors. The funding will particularly support social and economic stability by strengthening vital sectors such as education, social security, and healthcare. Von der Leyen also indicated that the EU will assist Lebanon in “moving forward with economic, financial, and banking reforms,” which are crucial. Assistance will also be provided to security forces and the army, particularly through equipment and training to control borders.

Besides the Beirut summit, the EU is also preparing to hold the Brussels Conference on Syria at the end of this month.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that the aid package is unconditional, and it is intended for Lebanon and the Lebanese people. It targets sectors such as health, education, social protection, and the poorest families, in addition to assistance to the army and security forces, including the General Security and Internal Security Forces, to help them control the land borders and boost their arsenal of equipment and ammunition.

Mikati said: "[The aid package] will assist the army to enhance its presence and capabilities to control the land and sea borders."

He said: "This is not a bribe as some claim, and there is no requirement for keeping the refugees in Lebanon."

Regarding the refugees, Mikati said: "There are three categories of refugees: the first includes those who entered immediately after the [outbreak] of the events, the second includes those who entered after the events and were registered by international organizations, the third category includes illegal residents."

Mikati called for "the application of Lebanese laws on the Lebanese territories," noting that "the European Union has been asked to acknowledge the principle that there are safe areas in Syria," adding, "there is a European division regarding the issue of safe areas, and we will launch a campaign in this regard to push the European Union to decide that there are safe areas in Syria."
Date Posted: May 02, 2024
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