Documents considered by the Committee on 14 December 2016 Contents

10EU-Lebanon Partnership Priorities

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny

Document details

Council Decision (EU) 2016/2131 of 17 October 2016 on the position to be taken on behalf of the EU within the Association Council set up by the Euro–Mediterranean Agreement establishing an Association between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Lebanon, of the other part, as regards the adoption of EU-Lebanon Partnership Priorities, including the Compact

Legal base

Arts 217 and 218(9), TFEU

Department

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Document Number

(38364), —

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

10.1The refugee crisis resulting from the Syrian conflict has had a severe impact on Lebanon. It hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrians and around 0.5 million Palestinians, which makes Lebanon the country hosting the highest number of displaced persons and refugees, both per capita and per square kilometre.49

10.2A mutual EU-Lebanon response to the crisis forms an important part of the new Partnership Priorities for the EU-Lebanon relationship over the period 2016–20. The priorities include: security and countering terrorism; governance and the rule of law; fostering growth and job opportunities; and migration and mobility.

10.3An “EU-Lebanon Compact” is annexed to the Partnership Priorities. This is largely targeted at interventions designed to assist the impact of the refugee crisis on Lebanon. These actions will be funded through additional EU funds pledged for Lebanon, including at least €400 million (£341 million) in 2016 and 2017 and additional funds that the EU may make available over the period 2018–2020.

10.4The Minister for Europe and the Americas, (Sir Alan Duncan), indicates that the proposed areas of co-operation correspond well with overall UK policy towards Lebanon. He notes that the UK will engage in the shaping of the actual programmes which will fulfil the adopted priorities.

10.5On the separate matter of the UK’s Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) opt-in, the Government does not consider the contents of the proposal to be “sufficiently concrete or extensive” to trigger the opt-in.

10.6We judge this document to be of political importance due to its link to the EU’s response to the refugee crisis. On that basis, we draw it to the attention of the House while clearing it from scrutiny.

10.7We note the Government’s assessment that the contents of the proposal are insufficiently “concrete or extensive” to trigger the JHA opt–in. This is only the second occasion on which we have seen this new test as to when the UK opt–in applies.50 As we have consistently taken the view that the UK opt–in is not engaged unless the measure has a JHA legal base,51 which this measure does not, we see no need to pursue this matter further.

Full details of the documents

Council Decision (EU) 2016/2131 of 17 October 2016 on the position to be taken on behalf of the EU within the Association Council set up by the Euro–Mediterranean Agreement establishing an Association between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Lebanon, of the other part, as regards the adoption of EU–Lebanon Partnership Priorities, including the Compact: (38364), —.

Background and Content

10.8The Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an Association between the EU, its Member States and Lebanon entered into force on 1 April 2006. Under the Agreement, the EU and Lebanon should take the necessary measures to fulfil the obligations. The Association Council (which includes representatives of the Parties) is empowered to take any required decisions.

10.9The second EU-Lebanon Action Plan, which was agreed in 2013 with the objective of furthering cooperation in the areas identified in the Agreement, came to an end in 2015 and has not been renewed.

10.10On 11 November, the EU and Lebanon adopted the partnership priorities for the coming four years, as well as a “Compact”. The partnership priorities set up a renewed framework for political engagement and enhanced cooperation. They were agreed in the context of the revised European neighbourhood policy and the EU’s global strategy for foreign and security policy.

10.11The Compact includes the mutual commitments through which the EU and Lebanon will fulfil the pledges they made at the London conference on supporting Syria and the region in February 2016. The objective is to improve the living conditions both of refugees temporarily staying in Lebanon and of vulnerable host communities.

10.12Partnership priorities in EU-Lebanon relations for the coming years include: security and countering terrorism; governance and the rule of law; fostering growth and job opportunities; and migration and mobility.

10.13The EU-Lebanon Compact foresees an EU allocation of a minimum of €400 million (£341 million) in 2016–2017, in addition to the bilateral assistance of more than €80 million (£68.2 million) for those two years. It outlines specific mutual commitments to address the impact of the Syrian crisis and aims to turn the situation into an opportunity to improve the socio-economic prospects, security, stability and resilience of the whole Lebanon. In turn Lebanon commits to ease the temporary stay of Syrian refugees, in particular regarding their residency status. The country currently hosts at least 1.1 million Syrians. It is the country hosting the highest number of displaced persons and refugees both per capita and per square kilometre.

Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 8 December 2016

10.14The Minister explains the background to the initiative in the following terms:

“This action was proposed following the EU’s review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in December 2015. The UK’s main policy goal for the review was to generate a more effective ENP which better differentiated between partner countries and better identified key priorities for cooperation. The UK successfully pressed for the EU to frame the Partnership Priorities as the key mechanism for delivering EU pledges made at the London Syria conference in February. As such, we strongly supported both documents as important tools for shoring up stability in Jordan and Lebanon ensuring both countries are able to host refugees, preventing them making the perilous journey to Europe. While not an exact reflection of UK priorities in Lebanon, the proposed areas of co-operation listed in the partnership priorities do correspond well with overall UK policy towards Lebanon.”

10.15Looking forward, he adds:

“These documents set the framework for EU programming in the region. The UK will continue to be involved in their implementation; engaging with the EU in Brussels and in Lebanon to shape the actual programmes that fulfil these priorities.”

10.16Finally, the Minister sets out the Government’s view that the Decision does not trigger the UK’s Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) opt–in as the contents of the proposal are insufficiently “concrete or extensive”.

Minister’s letter of 8 December 2016

10.17In a separate letter of 8 December, the Minister informs the Committee of the timing of the agreement:

“The Council Decision was adopted on 17 October 2016. The priorities and annexed Compact were then formally approved on 11 November 2016, following the launch (and positive reply from Lebanon) of a written procedure in accordance with the Association Council’s Rules of Procedures. This was published in the Official Journal on 6 December 2016. The Council Decision was marked LIMITÉ previous to this date.”

Previous Committee Reports

None.


49 Annex to Decision No 1/2016 of the EU–Lebanon Association Council of 11 November 2016 agreeing on EU–Lebanon Partnership Priorities.

50 The Government deployed similar language in relation to the EU-Malaysia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement: Thirteenth Report HC 71-xi (2016–17), chapter 17 (12 October 2016).

51 A legal base found in Title V of Part Three TFEU concerning an area of freedom, security and justice.




16 December 2016