The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Saturday berated Lebanese politicians for delays in forming a new cabinet, warning that the Union could impose sanctions on those behind the political deadlock in the country affected by the crisis.
Josep Borrell made his comments at the presidential palace near the capital Beirut after meeting with President Michel Aoun. This was the first meeting of a two-day visit to Lebanon.
Borrell’s comments came as Lebanese media report that France and the EU are developing proposals for possible travel bans and asset freezes for some politicians.
Borrell said Lebanese politicians should quickly form a new government, implement reforms and strike a deal with the International Monetary Fund to start pulling the small country out of its crippling economic and financial crisis.
Lebanon’s economic crisis – sparked by decades of corruption and mismanagement – began in late 2019 and has intensified in recent months. The World Bank said earlier this month that the crisis would likely be one of the worst the world has seen in more than 150 years, adding that the economy had contracted by 20.3% in 2020 and is expected to decline 9.5% this year.
Lebanon defaulted on debt repayment for the first time in March, while talks with the International Monetary Fund over a bailout ended last year. The crisis has been the greatest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the end of the 1975-90 civil war.
A power struggle between Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri on one side, and Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who heads the largest bloc in parliament, on the other. It has worsened the crisis despite warnings from world leaders and economic experts about the dire economic conditions facing little Lebanon.
Hariri was appointed to form a new government in October and has so far failed. The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned days after a massive explosion in Beirut on August 4, which left 211 dead and more than 6,000 injured.
“We cannot understand that nine months after the resignation of a prime minister, there is still no government in Lebanon,” Borrell said. “Only an urgent agreement with the International Monetary Fund will save the country from financial collapse. “
“There is no time to waste. You are on the verge of financial collapse,” he said in English.
Borrell said the EU was ready to help Lebanon and its people, but warned that if there were more obstacles to solutions to the multidimensional crisis, “we will have to consider other action plans like some Member States have proposed it “.
“The Council of the European Union has included other options, including targeted sanctions,” Borrell said. “Of course, we prefer not to take this path and we hope we don’t have to, but it is in the hands of the Lebanese leadership.”
Borrel dismissed claims by some Lebanese politicians that refugees are the cause of the crisis, saying it is “homemade”.
“It is not fair (to say) that the crisis in Lebanon comes from the presence of refugees,” he said, referring to nearly a million Syrian refugees who have fled the war in their country. to Lebanon.