Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Seventh Report


50 EU-Lebanon Action Plan

(27685)

11416/06

COM(06) 365

Council Decision on the position to be adopted by the European Community and its Member States within the Association Council established by the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement between the European Community and its Member States and the Republic of Lebanon, with regard to the adoption of a Recommendation on the implementation of the EU-Lebanon Action Plan.

Legal baseArts 15 and 23 TEU; unanimity
Document originated5 July 2006
Deposited in Parliament12 July 2006
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 28 September 2006
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (26434) HC 38-xv (2004-05), para 14 (6 April 2005)
To be discussed in Council16 October General Affairs and External Relations Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared

Background

50.1 The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) proposes a new framework for relations with the eastern European neighbours of the enlarged EU (Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova), its southern Mediterranean neighbours (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon) and three countries of the southern Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan). A closer relationship with the EU is offered in return for progress on internal reform, with the objective of promoting regional and sub-regional co-operation, political stability and economic development. The ENP does not prejudge future applications for EU membership by eligible countries.

50.2 Our predecessors cleared the European Neighbourhood Strategy, along with the Country Reports on seven "First Wave" partners — Ukraine, Moldova, Morocco, Tunisia, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority — in June 2004.[124] Later that month, they cleared what the then Minister for Europe described as "some of the elements which could form part of the EU's offer" and the likely priorities of each Plan.[125] Subsequently, on 8 December, they cleared the Action Plans on the seven "First Wave" partners that were subsequently approved by the 13 December 2004 General Affairs and External Relations Council.[126] Each of the Action Plans, the then Minister said, combined "opportunities for closer co-operation in areas of common interest, with a stronger desire from the EU to establish a set of shared common values including on issues such as human rights, democratisation, counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism".

50.3 Then, on 6 April 2005, they cleared Commission Communication 7313/05, which presented the elements of the proposed European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans for Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as neighbours of the post-enlargement European Union.[127]

The Council Decision

50.4 The Commission's formal proposal will be presented to the Council for approval on 16 October. The Council Decision will activate the EU-Lebanon Action Plan, which is annexed to it, via the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement. The Action Plan is helpfully summarised by the Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Geoffrey Hoon) in his Explanatory Memorandum of 28 September 2006.

The EU-Lebanon Action Plan

50.5 The EU-Lebanon Action Plan defines the way ahead for the next five years, covers a number of key areas for specific action and includes commitments on security sector reform, conflict prevention, combating terrorism and border management. Under the Plan, Lebanon is offered what the Minister describes as "the following new partnership, economic integration and cooperation perspectives":

  • An upgrade in the scope and intensity of political co-operation in particular through a regular political dialogue;
  • The opportunity for convergence of economic legislation, the opening of economies to each other, and the continued reduction of trade barriers which will stimulate investment and growth;
  • Increased financial support: EU financial assistance for Lebanon will be better targeted to support the actions identified in the present document, mainly to support the political and economic reform agenda of the Lebanese Government. The Commission has furthermore proposed a new European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) for this purpose, also covering the very important aspect of cross-border co-operation. The EIB will also help support infrastructure investment and private sector development and partnership through the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP). Possibilities of gradual opening of or reinforced participation in relevant Community programmes, promoting i.a. cultural, educational, environmental, technical and scientific links;
  • Support including technical assistance and twinning to meet EU norms and standards and targeted support and advice for legislative approximation through mechanisms such as TAIEX;[128]
  • Deepening trade and economic relations, extending them progressively to cover agriculture and the service sector, and to provide the conditions for increasing investment and exports; and
  • Enhanced direct co-operation between administrations based on the bodies set up by the Association Agreement in particular institutionalised thematic sub-committees.

50.6 The Minister then describes "a comprehensive set of priorities for action by Lebanon in areas within and beyond the scope of the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement", among which the following will be given particular attention:

  • Enhancing political dialogue and co-operation, based on shared values, including issues such as democracy and political life promoting the protection of human rights, consolidating the freedom of media and expression;
  • Continuing to develop an independent and impartial judiciary and to further reinforce the administrative capacity of the judiciary;
  • Establishing a comprehensive human rights strategy, including protection of rights of minorities, marginalised populations and non-citizens;
  • Taking steps to develop further freedom of media and freedom of expression;
  • Co-operating to promote cross-cultural dialogue and understanding;
  • Further promoting equal treatment of women, including by preparing a plan to increase women's participation in political and economic life as well as eliminating all forms of discrimination against women;
  • Strengthening political dialogue and co-operation on issues of international and regional interest including the Middle East Peace Process, the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • Taking steps to bring the fiscal position to a sustainable basis while reducing the debt burden and improving public finance management;
  • Taking measures to improve business conditions to enhance growth, increase investment and to create jobs in Lebanon;
  • Enhancing Lebanon's export potential by further liberalisation of trade in goods and agriculture, simplifying and upgrading customs legislation and procedures, improving industrial standards and modernisation of the sanitary and phytosanitary systems;
  • Preparing for progressive liberalisation of trade in services and right of establishment;
  • Improving co-operation on the management of migratory flows and dialogue on visa issues;
  • Strengthening the environmental dimension of public policy and EU-Lebanon co-operation;
  • Promoting sustainable development policies and actions, and design and implement a comprehensive social development strategy that contributes to poverty reduction;
  • Developing the transport, energy, water and information society sectors and networks through sector liberalisation, investment in infrastructures and interconnection with EU networks; and
  • Strengthening co-operation on science and technology.

50.7 Once the Action Plan has been agreed by the Council and formally adopted by the EU and Lebanon, progress will be monitored using existing structures under the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement and formally reviewed after two years.

The Government's view

50.8 The Minister says the Action Plan meets the Government's key objectives for ENP of a safe, secure neighbourhood and continues as follows:

"This has taken on greater importance since the outbreak of hostilities in Lebanon this summer, in response to which there is an even more pressing need to promote stability and security. The Government welcomes the prospect of an enhanced relationship with Lebanon on the basis of shared common values, and effective implementation of political, economic and institutional reforms. The Government believes that the approach in the Action Plan rightly combines opportunities for closer co-operation in areas of common interest, with a stronger desire from the EU to establish a set of shared common values. The Government hopes that the Action Plan will provide support and impetus to Lebanon's own reform programme aimed at further integration into European economic and social structures. The Action Plan will also be an effective tool for targeting technical assistance.

"The Action Plan sets out a robust framework for political and economic reform in Lebanon, including on democracy and the rule of law, corruption, electoral law reform, independence of the judiciary and macro-economic stability. This will be important in helping secure the future stability of Lebanon. The Action Plan has also been drawn up in the wider context of a common commitment to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, acknowledging the important objective of restoring Lebanon's full sovereignty and territorial integrity, in accordance with International Law and relevant United Nations Resolutions. This context directly supports our efforts to implement UNSCR 1701, which was aimed at bringing long term peace and security to Lebanon. In particular it establishes a basis for cooperation on security sector reform, conflict prevention, combating terrorism and border management. It also provides for cooperation on improving the economic and social situation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

"We welcome the ENP and its approach, which should enable a differentiated approach to each partner country within a wider policy framework. We recognise this is a long-term policy which will evolve gradually over time. We strongly believe it is essential that EU Member States remain actively involved in shaping this policy, to ensure it supports our objectives to the region and to Lebanon."

50.9 Finally, the Minister says that there are no additional financial implications at this stage; with co-operation from 2004-06 being funded from within existing regional budgets, he continues to believe that no increase in spending is required to implement the ENP at present and that existing assistance should be made more effective and targeted towards the priorities identified under the policy. He then notes that funding from 2007 will be under the new ENPI, where the indicative financial framework for the ENPI for 2007-13 is €11,967 million in current prices. The Government will support appropriate allocation of resources to ENPI countries according to criteria including need, policy environment and effective use of previous assistance.

Conclusion

50.10 It is difficult to imagine either more challenging circumstances in which to launch this Action Plan, or ones where progress is more important to EU and Member States' interests. We hope that, despite the history and context, in two years' time the review will be able to demonstrate at least some positive outcomes.

50.11 We now clear the Council Decision.




124   (25708) 9921/04; see HC 42-xxii (2003-04), para 22 (9 June 2004).  Back

125   (25744-50) --; see HC 42-xxiv (2003-04), para 6 (23 June 2004). Back

126   (26155-60 and 26174) 16164/04, 16166/04, 16162/04, 16167/04, 16218/04, 15991/04 and 16178/04; see HC 38-ii (2004-05), para 9 (8 December 2004); HC 38-vii (2004-05), para 8 (2 February 2005).  Back

127   (26434) 7313/05; see HC 38-xv (2004-05), para 14 (6 April 2005). Back

128   Technical Assistance Information Exchange. Back


 
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