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European Commissioner to visit Lebanon

Ferrero-Waldner to visit Lebanon 29-30 September

European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will make her first bilateral visit Lebanon on 29-30 September. This visit demonstrates the European Commission’s commitment to support Lebanon’s own reform programme and to lay the foundations for a deeper relationship between the EU and Lebanon, through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). While in Beirut, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will meet leading politicians including the Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Faouzi Salloukh, Minister of Economy, Sami Haddad and Minister of Finance, Jihad Azour. She will also meet municipal leaders, receive a “draft Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan” from Lebanese students, and visit the late Rafik Harari’s tomb.

On the eve of her visit, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: “This year, the Lebanese people have demanded change. The European Union wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon at this important moment in its history, and during my visit I will be explaining how we can support the country on its way to a more stable, prosperous and democratic future”.

She added: “My visit launches the preparations for the opening of a new chapter in our relationship. I am determined that we should begin negotiations as soon as possible, for an EU-Lebanon Action Plan under the Neighbourhood Policy. This a process that can strengthen bonds between us and bring significant benefits for Lebanon. The Plan will not only support Lebanon’s own programme of democratic reform, but help to boost its economic prospects through new opportunities to access the European single market”.

The European Neighbourhood Policy is a unique agreement between the European Union and its neighbours. The ENP aims to intensify relations and promoting progressive integration, through the offer of a stake in the EU internal market. It complements the Barcelona Process, and builds on existing Association Agreements. The ENP offers additional economic and social benefits for the countries that border the EU, through co-operation in a range of areas from strengthening democracy, rule of law, and human rights, to trade liberalisation, energy, and transport.

The Commissioner’s visit will initiate the first steps towards negotiations with Lebanon for an Action Plan within the framework of the ENP. Her visit will be followed by further talks between the EU and Lebanon during October, to establish the modalities for the forthcoming negotiations.

The May-June 2005 elections constituted an important turning point in the history of Lebanon. The EU supported the elections by sending an Election Observation Mission, which has made important recommendations for improvements in the Lebanese electoral system. The Commission has welcomed the fact that electoral reform figures prominently in the government’s own reform programme, and stands ready to offer further support.

In order to be able to respond to immediate needs of Lebanon after the elections, the Commission has put together a new reform support programme of €10 million. It forms part of the €100.7 million already committed from the EU community budget for the period 2000-2006. The EU (Community, Member States, EIB) is already Lebanon’s leading donor.

For more information:
The EU's relations with Lebanon at

http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/lebanon/intro/index.htm

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