EU offers $1 bln in economic, security support to Lebanon

EU offers  bln in economic, security support to Lebanon

BEIRUT (Reuters) : The European Union has offered Lebanon a financial package of 1 billion euros ($1.07 billion) to support its faltering economy and its security forces, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday during a visit to Beirut.

Von der Leyen said the support package would help bolster basic services in Lebanon, including health and education, though she added that it was crucial for Beirut to “take forward economic, financial and banking reforms” to revitalize the business environment and banking sector.

Speaking alongside Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, she said security support to the Lebanese army, the internal security forces and General Security would be focused on providing training, equipment and infrastructure to improve border management.

Lebanon’s economy began to unravel in 2019 after decades of profligate spending and corruption. However, vested interests in the ruling elite have stalled financial reforms that would grant Lebanon access to a $3 billion aid package from the International Monetary Fund.

As the crisis has been allowed to fester, most Lebanese have been locked out of their bank savings, the local currency has collapsed and public institutions — from schools to the army — have struggled to keep functioning.

In parallel, Lebanon has seen a rise in migrant boats taking off from its shores and heading to Europe – with nearby Cyprus and increasingly Italy, too, as the main destinations, researchers say.