EU adopts framework to sanction Lebanese officials

EU adopts framework to sanction Lebanese officials

Beirut, Lebanon – The European Union said it has adopted a legal framework to impose sanctions on Lebanese officials and entities involved in corruption, obstruction of government formation and blocking of economic and accountability reforms.
Lebanon found itself without a full government for nearly a year, after Prime Minister Hassan Diab resigned days after the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut.

Registered Lebanese officials would be subject to a travel ban and an EU asset freeze, while European entities and individuals are “banned from making funds available to them,” the EU said in a statement on Friday. .

“The Union is ready to use all its political instruments to contribute to a lasting exit from the current crisis and to react to a further deterioration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as of the economic, social and humanitarian situation in the country. Lebanon ”, It said.

No name has yet been listed. An EU source told Al Jazeera that member states would enter a discussion phase to agree on the names of Lebanese officials to register.

“It is difficult to assess how long it will take before they agree on the names,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

All 27 EU member states must vote unanimously for sanctions to be imposed.

France and the EU had alluded to the use of sanctions to push the Lebanese authorities to restructure and revive the Lebanese economy over the past year.

More recently, the EU said two weeks ago that it was working on a sanctions framework for Lebanese officials, but said it would not be implemented immediately.

Lebanon’s economic crisis has been one of the worst in the world since the mid-19th century, according to the World Bank [File: Wael Hamzeh/EPA]

On Monday, billionaire businessman and former Prime Minister Najib Mikati was appointed the new Prime Minister designate of Lebanon and was tasked with forming a new government.

His appointment comes just 11 days after Future Movement leader Saad Hariri resigned as Prime Minister-designate after a nine-month political stalemate with President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law, politician Gebran Bassil.

The country is also facing an economic crisis described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since the mid-19th century.

Half of the population lives in poverty, while the Lebanese pound has lost at least 90% of its value in less than two years. Corruption and mismanagement of public funds are endemic.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at the end of April that Paris had banned travel for Lebanese officials obstructing the formation of the government, when Hariri was acting prime minister, although no name is has been announced.

Less than two weeks later, Le Drian said French sanctions could become tougher as political deadlock persists and a reform plan by Lebanese officials agreed with President Emanuel Macron nearly a year ago. remains at a standstill.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on Lebanese officials over the past year, including former Public Works and Transport Minister Yousef Finianos and former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil for their close ties to the Hezbollah and for allegedly participating in corruption to strengthen Iran. -party supported.

Economic analyst Sami Zoughaib told Al Jazeera he was “skeptical” of the significant impact of foreign sanctions against Lebanese officials.

“It could be positive as long as it hits everyone and excludes the political elite from the international arena – in the sense that they no longer have the bargaining power – but I’m skeptical,” Zoughaib said.

“Every foreign power has its clients and allies here [among ruling political parties], but I think they will want to target certain people but not their own.

President Aoun’s office declined to comment on Friday’s announcement, while interim Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s office did not respond to questions from Al Jazeera.


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