Address of PM Fuad Siniora on the Occasion of the entry into force of the ASSOCIATION AGREEMENT between Lebanon and the EU

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exellencies,









Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am delighted to be with you this morning to celebrate together the entry into effect of the Association Agreement between Lebanon and the EU. This is yet another milestone in Lebanon’s growing political, cultural, economic, and trade partnership with Europe.

 

In fact, the ties between Lebanon and Europe go back a long long time. Legend has it that it was the Phoenicians who gave the continent its name after their goddess Europa. The same Phoenicians who were instrumental in spreading trade and cultural insemination along the shores of the Mediterranean three millennia ago. A lot has happened since then. But the inhabitants of the eastern shores of the Mediterranean have in many ways remained the same. The Lebanese have always been ready for new horizons. Always eager to build cultural bridges; and forge new partnerships. Today, we celebrate a partnership between Lebanon and the EU anchored in shared values of democracy, individual liberty, and respect for cultural diversity. A partnership that aims at economic prosperity for all parties.

 

 

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

As I said before, today marks a milestone on the path of strengthened relations with Europe. We recall that last November we also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona process which aims at fostering political stability, economic prosperity, and promoting cultural interaction. Lebanon remains committed to the principles of the Barcelona process.

 

Going forward, as our association agreement enters into force, the first association council between the EU and Lebanon - represented by Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Fawzi Salloukh - will be held in Luxembourg on April 11,  The Agreement will take EU-Lebanon relations into a more advanced stage of cooperation at all levels. We look forward to the many opportunities that this agreement will provide, particularly at a time when Lebanon is undergoing a significant and promising transition. We hope to launch a dialogue with the EU on a range of issues of common interest. This dialogue  should allow us to benefit from the rich political and institutional experience of Europe.

 

We are also fully engaged in the preparations for the first round of negotiations of the Lebanon’s action plan for the Neighborhood Policy that will start on the 6th of April.  The Minister of Economy Mr. Sami Haddad will lead a Lebanese delegation to Brussels for that purpose. We strongly believe that the Neighborhood Policy can bring a significant contribution to our reforms. These reforms aim, among other things, to refocus the role of the state; raise the standards of governance; strengthen the rule of law; reemphasize the role of the private sector in the economy, and increase economic efficiency and social justice. A neighborhood committee is being established to guide the implementation of the action plan, in a wide range of issues. These include the approximation of legislations; coordination with the EU on issues of common interest; and the optimization of market access to the EU.  This committee will include representatives from all the relevant ministries, as well as the private sector and civil society. We view Lebanon’s involvement in the neighborhood policy as a Lebanon-wide involvement; one which is not confined to government bureaucrats or to a narrow circle of stakeholders.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Today's event comes at an important juncture in our country’s history. For a year now, the Lebanese people have been struggling to restore a well-functioning democratic political system, and to rebuild national institutions that are able to move the country forward towards a peaceful, stable, and more prosperous future; Capable and efficient state institutions that can guarantee peace and security for all its citizens and residents. As we do this, we are faced with many threats and challenges. Some internal, others external.  During this difficult period, the EU has stood with us on many levels, including at the UN where support at the Security Council has been particularly important, and much appreciated. We are very hopeful that Lebanon will also get strong support from the EU for our economic reform program that will be presented in a donors conference to be held in Beirut as soon as a wide agreement is reached in Lebanon on all its contents.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Two weeks ago, I visited Brussels to address the council of EU Foreign Ministers. It was an opportunity for me to stress to our European friends the importance of Lebanon as a model and example of tolerance, coexistence and moderation for the region as a whole. Lebanon’s small size has always belied its great influence on the rest of the  Arab word. Success in Lebanon can have a positive impact that stretches much beyond its borders.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

We are all too aware that the world has become much smaller. No one can pretend to be an island and no country can claim to be immune from what happens outside its borders. We, in Lebanon have always been affected, positively and negatively, by regional developments. Europe too has increasingly recognized that its own welfare depends on peace, stability, and prosperity in the Arab and Muslim worlds to its east and south. The Neighborhood Policy reflects and is an enlightened product of this recognition.

 

It is also very much in the spirit of the neighborhood policy that the EU play a leading role in supporting peace and justice among the nations that make up the neighborhood. The Arab-Israeli conflict and the plight of the Palestinian people are stark examples of international injustice, which have fed the fuels of extremism and prejudice for decades. In our view, the EU can, and should, do more to end this protracted wound.

 

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I would like to salute all those who have worked hard to get us where we are today. I would like to pay a special tribute to the Lebanese architect of this Agreement, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, God bless his soul, whose vision, and commitment to Lebanese-European relations have transformed Lebanon’s ties to Europe. He has succeeded in deepening and  broadening those ties to include all segments of the diverse Lebanese society. This is not a small feat given that in the last few centuries Europe had been seen as a partisan in Lebanon's inter-communal rivalries. This is no more. To us Europe is a friend and partner of all of Lebanon.

 

I also want to pay a special tribute to the memory of Basil Fuleihan, who worked hard and with great conviction to translate the vision of Prime Minister Hariri into reality.

 

Excellencies,

 

Let me conclude by assuring you that my Government will spare no effort to ensure the success of this agreement. We also look forward to more steps to enhance the partnership between Lebanon and the EU.

 

Thank You.

تاريخ الخطاب: 
03/04/2006