Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati is adamant that the European Union’s planned €1 billion financial aid package for Lebanon is “unconditional” and “a continuation of the aid the EU has been granting Lebanon for years.”

“This aid is earmarked for basic services provided by the European Commission to state institutions in the sectors of social protection, education, water and health,” he said in a speech delivered at the start of the parliamentary session that opened on Wednesday, in Place de l’Étoile, to discuss the financial aid plan.

The EU aid program has been contested at both political and popular levels. It was seen as a bribe to be paid to Lebanon in exchange for keeping Syrian migrants on its soil.

Mikati pointed out that the European Commission “has promised to re-evaluate this aid every six months, taking into account Lebanon’s needs.” “It has also promised to increase this sum considerably and to attract European investment to Lebanon, once the laws providing for reforms have been passed,” he added.

Affirming, once again, that EU aid is “unconditional” and that “no agreement has been signed with the European Commission in this sense,” Mikati asserted that the government “has insisted that aid to Syrian migrants should be granted to encourage them to return home,” stressing that “the vast majority of Syrian regions are now safe.”


Moreover, Mikati noted that “the prolongation of this (Syrian migrant) crisis in Lebanon risks turning into a fireball that will not be limited to Lebanon alone but could also spread to Europe, provoking a regional and international crisis.” “We made this position known to all the parties concerned, including the President of Cyprus (Nikos Christodoulides) and the President of the European Commission (Ursula von der Leyen) during their visit to Lebanon” on May 2, he said. “We told them that Lebanon cannot act as a coastguard for any country, and that all countries must cooperate to resolve this crisis,” Mikati added.

For Mikati, the various Lebanese parties must come to an agreement to resolve this problem. He listed the measures taken by the government in this respect, notably the application of existing Lebanese laws to repatriate any Syrian nationals who are residing in Lebanon illegally.

“Coordination with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will be established, when necessary, while taking into consideration the memorandum of understanding signed between the General Security and UNHCR on September 9, 2003, according to which Syrians in Lebanon cannot be considered as refugees,” he said. In this respect, he stressed that no (political) intervention with security services and government bodies should be allowed to keep Syrians residing illegally in Lebanon.

Among the security measures that have been taken, Mikati highlighted the reinforcement of controls along the borders with Syria. “But the number of soldiers deployed (4,838) remains insufficient,” he deplored, pointing out that it should be at least quintupled. “Controls on the coast also need to be stepped up,” he added.

Mikati also referred to the circulars issued by the Ministry of the Interior to register Syrians present on Lebanese soil and crack down on illegal businesses run by Syrians. He pointed out that the Ministry of Labor is taking deterring measures against illegal businesses, particularly those affecting the Lebanese workforce.

The measures also include a request to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to take firm action against those involved in human trafficking, and also to expel Syrian prisoners. Finally, Mikati announced the intensification of diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue.