Lunch on the occasion of Europe Day
Saturday May 12, 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Welcome you note on behalf of Mr. Saad Hariri, on my behalf, and on behalf of my colleagues in the Future Block and March 14.
- Euro-Lebanon Relations
- First I would like to congratulate you European Ambassadors and other Ambassadors and representatives of other countries and international organizations on this “Europe’s day” and hope that the future brings to Europe an even stronger integration, and higher levels of prosperity and advancement and same as well to our Arab region and to the world at large.
- Europe has come a long way since the end of World War II just 67 years ago, constituting a successful model of institutionalized cooperation, gradually and incrementally building up towards integration on the basis of common interests and shared basic values, while maintaining healthy inter country competition and differences.
- Lebanon and Europe have always shared the same values and principles of democracy, openness, freedom and justice. Today with the Arab Spring transforming the political landscape of the region, Arab societies, look at these values with inspiration and a great deal of hope.
- We also look high up at the experience of the European economic union as an example to be learned from especially once we have stable democracies in the Arab world. It is an experiment of profound implications for what it represents not just in Europe, but also for other regions around the globe, in their quest towards development and prosperity.
- Lebanese-European cooperation goes back a few decades: it started officially in 1977 but was launched on more solid ground in 2006 when EU adopted the neighborhood policy.
- Between 2011 and 2013, the European Union plans to provide Lebanon with development grants of over 150 million euro, which represents a 7% growth over the period 2007-2010.
- Among the key projects that helped Lebanon with over the past years, is the support of socio-economic reforms which particularly targets the support of private sector development and to help Lebanon join the WTO, in addition to its support for political reforms that goes into strengthening governance, democracy and security. Added to this is the support for fostering human rights, prison reforms, educational and vocational training, and the environment.
- Of course in addition to EU support, Lebanon benefits from bilateral support from countries that are members of the European Union.
- Developments in Europe and the Arab World
- This continued support to Lebanon is highly appreciated at times of great austerity and economic strains in many European countries.
- It is unfortunate that a historic transformation in the Arab world is taking place at a time of economic crisis in Europe, our “natural partner” across the Mediterranean. The Arabs fighting at an important time in their history for democracy, dignity, and better economic prospects hope for a Marshall Plan, an EU project, or a NAFTA, all examples of important regional initiatives that helped protect, foster the democratic process of countries in transition.
- Nevertheless, it is imperative that cooperation between the Arabs world and the EU at this moment be at helping the Arabs' transformation and manage the difficult transition period. In spite of the depressed economic conditions, still, Europe has a role to play through “neighborhood policy”- which at heart means that investing in your neighbor’ Security (capital S: social and economic security included) is an indirect investment in your own security i.e. that of Europe.
- Also needed is European assistance in the creation of the conducive environment for and participation and cooperation among Arab countries, as well as transfer of know-how in terms of cross-border investments and development initiatives (the EBRD experience could provide a good example for Arab regional economic cooperation).
- But above all, what is required of Europe is to stay the course of supporting Arab democratic transformation. At past times, the values of democracy, freedom and human rights have been compromised for the sake of what was perceived as stability in the region. Such perceived stability turned out to be at the expense of long term stability. Lessons from history have shown that Democracy is what ultimately provides sustainable stability.
- Also election results may not always be to our liking. But Europe knows by experience that democracy always self-corrects.
- What protects the right of minorities is the civic state and democratic institutions and not the presence of this person, family, or sect in power.
- On Lebanon
- Concerning Lebanon, we have always shared the views with you that at these turbulent times, stability was and remains an important objective for us Lebanese and for you as our close neighbors across the Mediterranean. But as we are determined to preserve security we are determined not to compromise freedom, justice, human rights.
- We have never considered the current government as legitimate given the circumstances under which it was formed added to this are the serious mistakes and faults it is committing, and the conflict among its members that has rendered it paralyzed; but still we have acted as a responsible opposition and our record speaks for itself for almost a year now.
- But at a certain point we have to ask the question as “opposition”: is the balance between this “stability” (as fragile and edgy as it is), on one side, and the damage being done to the functions of the State and its image, to the economy, and to Lebanon’s status in the Arab world on the other side; is this balance still a positive one? We say this while we strongly believe that fragile stability is not a gift of this government but due to the fact that those who are carrying the weapons and who can inflict instability find no interest for them now in causing instability.
- We are sincerely worried that the damage being done to the state, the administration, and the economy will take a very long time to repair, which makes the continuation of this government highly costly.
- We don’t believe that this government is fit to run the country at these crucial times of transition in the Arab world. We surely don’t believe it is fit to oversee the elections in the year 2013.
- We are very concerned by statements made by important figures in the majority “questioning” the capability of holding elections on time in the summer of next year. This is a dangerous indication that the ruling coalition prefers to postpone the elections if it cannot guarantee a majority.
- This will be very bad for Lebanon at times of elections in the Arab world to be going against a trend in which it was always a pioneer.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I spoke quite a bit but meeting you is always a good occasion to reflect together an issues of common interest.
I welcome you again and look forward to hearing your comments or questions.