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European assistance for crisis-ridden Lebanon

Lebanese and international criticism of the EU's new aid package is exaggerated

The EU's new support program for Lebanon expands on its previous commitment to the cedar state. In addition to supporting the provision of basic services (health, education, etc.) for people in need, the EU also wants to focus more on security and migration management. Since the agreement was widely portrayed in Europe and Lebanon as a kind of “refugee deal” to keep migrations away from European shores, the offer was met with rejection in Lebanon's heated domestic political climate. The country considers itself overwhelmed by the presence of 1.5 million Syrian refugees. If the program is implemented properly, it can help Lebanon deal with its economic and social problems and contributes to the strengthening of the Lebanese Armed Forces, one of the few still functioning governmental institutions.

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A new aid package for Lebanon

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides pledged a financial package of around EUR 1 billion to Lebanon for the period 2024-2027 during a state visit to Beirut at the beginning of May, which is to be divided into three main areas:

  • Supporting basic services in the areas of education, health, social assistance and water supply for the most vulnerable people in Lebanon, including refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities;
  • Supporting urgent reforms (as requested by the International Monetary Fund), including in the banking sector, contributing to an improved economic and business environment;
  • Support border and migration management, including the fight against human trafficking and smuggling, increased support to the Lebanese Armed Forces.


Focus on security and migration management

The EU has already provided EUR 570 million for Lebanon in its programs for the period 2021-2023; the annual support amount will thus be increased from around EUR 190 million to EUR 250 million in the new package. To date, the EU's focus has primarily been on the first two of the above-mentioned areas (basic services approx. EUR 385 million / reforms approx. EUR 160 million). This will also be the case in the new program period, although no concrete action plan has yet been drawn up as to exactly what the funds will be spent on and with whom. The third area, security, has also been partially funded to date, but will be one of the priorities of EU-Lebanon cooperation in the future with regard to migration management. The aim is to enable the Lebanese security sector to control the country's borders more effectively. On the one hand, this will involve the Lebanese-Syrian border, through which Syrians are still entering the country unchecked; on the other hand, the Lebanese coast, from where increasing numbers of refugees are making their way towards Cyprus. The EU Council decisions of April 18, 2024, which form one of the foundations of the EU package, also refer to the negotiations on UNSCR 1701 as a way of containing the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. If necessary, funds from the package could also be used to strengthen the Lebanese army in order to secure such an agreement.


The emphasis on migration management and security indicates an expansion of European Lebanon policy, not a fundamental reorientation. This takes account of the fact that the refugee crisis in Lebanon is not only a humanitarian aid issue, but also requires measures in the security sector and border protection. The agreement thus also addresses European concerns about migration pressure at the EU's external borders. With regard to Lebanon, Cyprus is particularly concerned in this context and migration was already the dominant topic during the Cypriot President's state visit to Beirut at the beginning of April this year.

The package was therefore presented in advance and in media coverage as a kind of "refugee deal" similar to the agreements with Turkey and other third countries. This categorization provoked some resistance in Lebanon itself: In addition to the socio-economic problems and conflicts caused by the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, many here are concerned that the Syrian presence will destroy the country's demographic balance. In a country where population statistics are political, this is a highly explosive issue. Despite all the internal Lebanese disputes, there is therefore widespread agreement that the Syrian refugees should leave the country sooner rather than later.

The full-length publication is only available in german.

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Michael Bauer

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Head of KAS Office Lebanon +961 (0)1 388 095/6 +961 (0) 1388097


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