EU ambassador lambasts unjust Lebanese system

Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, has delivered a speech marking Europe Day, in which he also tackled the situation in Lebanon.

Below is the full text of the speech as received by Naharnet:

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you tonight at the occasion of Europe Day - the day on which we commemorate the 1950 Schuman Declaration, the first step in a long process, ultimately leading to the creation of the European Union as we know it today. Believe it or not, this is my first Europe Day Reception in my third year as the Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon. And due to the particular circumstances in which we celebrate today, we meet in a much reduced format, and in the privacy of my Residence.

But I’m happy that we do meet after all and I want to thank you all for honouring us with your presence today.

Europe today is more united than ever in the face of a brutal, unprovoked and unjustified war waged by Russia on Ukraine, bringing in its wake senseless destruction, killing, suffering and atrocities at a scale not seen in Europe since the end of World War II.

Europeans are shocked from witnessing the cruelty of this war, which is waged on innocent people. Allow me to express, on behalf of all the people of Europe, our heartfelt condolences to the families, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives and suffered injury and trauma as a consequence of this sustained barbaric act of war.

Beyond the pain and the suffering, this war is also directed against the heart of the European Project, aimed at unifying our continent, which has seen war and destruction for centuries before the process of European unification began at the end of World War II.

This war blatantly violates international law, and this by a Permanent Member of the Security Council. It crosses red lines established and respected by all in Europe, even at the height of the cold war, in particular the principle of the inviolability of borders.

The European Union was founded to prevent exactly such a scenario in Europe.

After the horrors of World War II, the leaders and people of Europe united around a common rallying cry: “never again”. We understood that economic, social and political cooperation and integration were key to secure that goal. We developed and put into effect a new, a more humane understanding of security. We understood that our own security depended not so much on the number of tanks, planes, missiles and ammunition we possessed and controlled, but on mutual trust and the fact that our neighbours felt secure.

Yes, we acknowledge that the European project and the European Union are far from being perfect, like any project created and put in motion by human beings. We acknowledge also that we often do not live up to our far-reaching stated visions, values and commitments. But the direction in which we want to evolve is clearly marked, and our willingness to be held to account to our visions, values and commitments is unquestioned. Russia put the axe at the foundational principles of this project, and it did so deliberately, out of choice, not out of necessity or self-defence.

As a human being, I am shocked and saddened by the human suffering caused by this war. As a diplomat, I am saddened to see that diplomacy could not prevent that war and by the acknowledgment that diplomacy seem to have for now fell silent at the sound of the cannons of war. At this juncture, we all feel that it is our duty to stand by the people of Ukraine in this conflict.

For Lebanon, as for many other countries, this war happens at a moment when domestic challenges and challenges closer to home would require undistracted focus and attention.

Lebanon, a place which has hardly ever known internal stability and social cohesion in its history, continues to be at the crossroads of adverse regional dynamics, pulling its society and its political system apart.

Lebanon continues in particular to struggle with the fallout of the war in Syria and the massive presence of refugees this war brought onto it. What we call the economic crisis Lebanon is facing today, is in fact much more than just an economic crisis. It is a crisis which has collapsed the business model on which this country has relied on for decades after coming out of a bloody civil war. This economic crisis has a massive impact on Lebanon’s social fabric by putting unprecedented pressure on its middle class and by creating a whole new class of vulnerable people who barely have the minimum left to make ends meet. It has a massive impact also on the legitimacy of the political system, which is not delivering on the expectations of ordinary Lebanese and has therefore lost the trust of most of them.

In this context, the war on Ukraine brings another layer of challenges. Not only with regard to rising prices of commodities and the shifting attention of Lebanon’s European partners. But also with regard to the return of geopolitics at a global scale.

Let me assure you that I personally understand the unease of Lebanese decision-makers when asked to choose sides in a conflict, which seems not to be theirs.

I understand the preoccupation that choosing sides might bring about a further polarization of an already fragmented and polarized political situation, at the expense of much needed consensus-building to address domestic challenges.

I also understand the scepticism of many of my Lebanese interlocutors when Europe speaks about the need to uphold and defend International Law, in view of what seems occasionally a selective reading of what that means - in particular in this region.

And still - for Europeans, this is a decisive moment in which we are counting our friends. This war is not just. This war is not justified. This war is not fought to better the world. We must collectively find a way to end it. The sooner the better. And there can and should be no prime on aggression. Not only for our own sake, but for the sake of continuing to invest into a better future for all of us.”



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