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The billion Euro aid, to be given by the European Union to Lebanon to help the country alleviate the burden of hundreds of thousands of Syrians living in its territory, still raises question marks on the reason, timing and circumstances of this “gift,” which will be discussed on Wednesday by the Parliament.

The donation was only offered after Cyprus raised its voice against the continuous influx of Syrian migrants from the Lebanese shores to this island, while Lebanon has been dealing for more than 10 years with the consequences of the overwhelming presence of Syrian migrants and refugees on its soil.

It’s a fact: The influx of Syrians since 2011 put additional pressure on Lebanon’s poor infrastructure and the European aid is far from providing a substantial solution to this problem, particularly since part of it will be used to support the Lebanese army and security services.

“The financial package aims (among other things) to support Lebanese armed forces with equipment and training for border management,” said President of the EU Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen, during her recent visit to Beirut, stressing that the EU wants to “contribute to Lebanon’s socio-economic stability.”

This is the public reason, and this is the main sore point, as there are fears about many hidden political and financial motives, in addition to the social and humanitarian cover.

Economic expert Patrik Mardini told This is Beirut that “the Europeans believe that Lebanon can handle border control at a lower price, so instead of paying the European police to patrol their maritime borders, they pay the Lebanese to do it.” Mardini added, “In addition, it is a win-win situation for the Europeans, as they would be supporting the Lebanese armed forces financially. Hence, the motive is financial at this level.”

On the Lebanese level, it is both financial and political. “In the case of Lebanon, policy makers are trying to use the refugee crisis for two reasons or two political schemes. First, they are trying to extract money from the West in exchange for keeping the Syrian refugees in the country. The second reason is to divert attention from the problems facing Lebanon such as the financial and economic crisis and the failure of the political class in assuming their responsibilities, notably introduce reforms. They needed a scapegoat. They found it in the refugees’ issue, so they can blame them for all the problems,” Mardini added.

“Politicians would love to have the money of the refugees; they would want to have as much as they can. They would prefer that the money would go through government channels which would ensure greasing the corruption wheel in Lebanon. What we are really concerned about is that the EU might really know about that but would still give them the money to buy their silence. This is the worst thing that might happen since it will fund corruption,” Mardini concluded.

The EU is giving money to a Lebanese caretaker government, with a contested general budget with no reform vision.

In the past, the Europeans asked for detailed data on how each penny given to Lebanon’s government is spent. They were very keen on transparency and after the 2019 crisis, they affirmed several times that there will not be any monetary help for Lebanon unless reforms are made in different sectors, including electricity, public administration and taxation, in addition to a transparent general budget and the lifting of all subsidies.

Like many Lebanese, former LF leader Fouad Abu Nader “has great doubts” about the European Union’s €1 billion, three-year financial package for Lebanon.

He considers it as “a thinly veiled bribe to buy off the government in order to contain the Syrian refugees and keep them in Lebanon.” He added, “This assistance should be returned to its owners with thanks.”

Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri convened the MPs to a parliamentary session on Wednesday, May 15 to discuss the EU donation.

“Since stability has been restored in most Syrian territories, why are the refugees not given the money in Syria?” Abou Nader asks.

Most alarming, however, is caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s revelation about EU opening the way for “seasonal migration” for the Lebanese to work in European countries.

Different analyses emerged on the ins and outs of the EU donation, but whatever the explanations and the opinions, Lebanese public opinion mostly remains opposed to Syrians living in Lebanon.

The track of the billion Euro “gift” will be clear on Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether Parliament will echo the Lebanese people’s opinion or try to sidestep them.

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