A functioning Lebanese government is in Europe’s interest

ARTICLE – A Lebanese media outlet reported last week that contact had been lost with a boat carrying 250 migrants soon after it left the shores of the city of Tripoli. This came just three weeks after a boat sank while trying to make the trip across the Mediterranean to Europe. Luckily, the armed forces were able to rescue most of the passengers in the latest incident. However, illegal migration has become a chronic problem. The catastrophic situation in Lebanon will be the source of a new wave of refugees to Europe. As much as the international community tries to help Lebanon, there is no alternative to a functioning government.

Today, Europe cannot handle another wave of refugees. It is already struggling with Ukrainian refugees and there are no clear signs that the end of the war is nearing. Hence, it is in Europe’s interest to have a stable Lebanon, with an economy that can cater to the needs of the country’s residents and ensure they do not venture to the sea.

Nongovernmental organizations are very active in Lebanon, but their work is full of inefficiencies as they cannot replace a state. They help in terms of emergency responses, but it is very difficult for them to conduct the real development the country needs in the absence of a functioning state. For people to stay in Lebanon, they need to have work. How can an NGO help people in their livelihoods on a sustainable basis?

It is very simple. If Europe wants to spare itself the hassle of accommodating a new wave of refugees, it needs to push for a functioning state in Lebanon. However, there is no way to do that unless pressure is applied on the regime’s gatekeepers. Unless they are coerced into accepting reforms, they will not carry them out. Popular pressure by itself is not enough. The protests that erupted in 2019 did not make them blink. Elections did not make them go away, as they still control people’s livelihoods by controlling the so-called state and its so-called institutions. Hence, they have access to any services citizens seek to get from the state.

The West, Arab states and the wider international community accommodated the corrupt system for a long time. Now, they realize this is not sustainable. Saudi Arabia, which has always been very generous with aid, has announced that it will not send money to any country unless it conducts reforms.

And, for a change, the Europeans have altered their style and are adopting a more assertive attitude. They have sent investigators to Lebanon who have been digging in the files and questioning officials as part of the central bank anti-corruption investigation. One of central bank governor Riad Salameh’s main brokers, Nabil Aoun, decided to give his testimony in Luxembourg. Does that mean he has accepted a plea deal? Probably, but we are not sure.


Read the full article written by Dania Koleilat Khatib on Arab News.