Monsieur le Président, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by expressing the European Commission’s heartfelt sympathy to the people of Lebanon. This tragedy comes on top of an already difficult situation, compounded by Covid-19. I commend the Lebanese for their strength and resilience, and also for their solidarity. We should not forget that Lebanon hosts one of the world’s largest refugee communities.
I also wish to commend President Macron’s leadership in convening this meeting.
The explosions and its aftermath have resulted in vast needs that will grow rapidly unless we act collectively – and act fast. The European Union is already mobilizing all the tools at its disposal to assist.
Under the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism, we are coordinating the emergency assistance provided by no less than 15 of our Member States, plus Norway as a Participating State in the Mechanism. Together we currently have more than 250 men and women on the ground in Beirut.
The European Commission has also already mobilised an initial 33 million euro for emergency humanitarian needs, medical support and equipment, and protection of critical infrastructure.This includes €8 million under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis, to support the Lebanese Red Cross Emergency Medical Services. More health-related assistance is expected to be mobilised shortly.
The European Commission intends to make available up to 30 million euro in additional EU humanitarian aid, subject to the agreement of our budgetary authorities. The ongoing humanitarian needs assessment, when finalized, will be crucial in guiding our support. Our humanitarian team in Beirut is supporting this work. As always, EU humanitarian aid is channelled exclusively through our trusted humanitarian partners to reach those in need, fast.
Given the extent of the damage to infrastructure, we will need to coordinate closely in the medium and long-term recovery and reconstruction of Beirut, – including key infrastructure such as the port, and the Lebanese economy in general. The results of a comprehensive damage and needs assessment will be crucial to inform this process. It will be important that the exact causes of the explosion are known, also to ensure that this can never happen again.
As always, our rigorous safeguards and controls will be upheld to ensure that EU aid spending delivers and meets the needs of the Lebanese on the ground – also in the mediate and long-term perspective.
The EU will engage constructively with the Lebanese authorities in delivering the structural and sectoral reforms required to eventually unlock significant EU macro-financial assistance.
The European Union will continue to mobilise these and other tools available to alleviate the suffering of the affected people in Lebanon.