EU prepares sanctions on Lebanon for first time - GulfToday

EU prepares sanctions on Lebanon for first time


The technical work has now begun on preparing sanctions after EU foreign ministers agreed to take action.

The European Union is drawing up sanctions on politicians in Lebanon seen as blocking the formation of a government, readying the bloc's first penalties on its Middle Eastern ally in frustration at the ruling elite's mismanagement, diplomats said.

Led by former colonial power France, the bloc is seeking to ramp up pressure on Lebanon's squabbling politicians, after 10 months of crisis that has left Lebanon facing financial collapse, hyperinflation, electricity blackouts, and fuel and food shortages.


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No names have been discussed and Hungary has publicly denounced EU efforts to pressure Lebanese politicians, but six diplomats and officials told Reuters that technical work has now begun on preparing sanctions — so-called designation criteria — after EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to take action.

As many senior Lebanese politicians have homes, bank accounts and investments in the EU, and send their children to universities there, a withdrawal of that access could be a lever to focus minds.

A demonstrator carries a national flag along a blocked road, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon. Reuters

Paris says it has already taken measures to restrict entry for some Lebanese officials, for blocking efforts to tackle the unprecedented crisis, which is rooted in decades of state corruption and debt.

"The level of impatience with the ruling class is growing. They don't seem to have their peoples' interest at heart. Expect to see a decision in the next three to four weeks," said a senior EU diplomat.

The EU first needs to set up a sanctions regime that could then see individuals hit by travel bans and asset freezes.

There are divisions among the 27 EU states over the wisdom of EU sanctions, but the bloc's two main powers, France and Germany are in favour, which is likely to prove pivotal. A larger group of nations has yet to specify their approach.

However, officials say it is usual at the technical, preparatory stage that countries remain circumspect and that once a political agreement among EU governments is in place, they will rally around France.

"It's just a question of time. We have what we wanted," said a senior French diplomat following Monday's meeting.

Given Hungary's opposition, the working hypothesis is now to go for the approach of each of the remaining 26 EU countries to individually place sanctions, as well as offering aid.



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