Beirut, Lebanon – The European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on the EU to adopt targeted sanctions against Lebanese officials involved in corruption and obstructing the investigation into the explosion in the port of Beirut.
In a vote on Thursday, 571 of 681 members of the European Parliament backed the resolution, which condemned Lebanese political parties for the country’s devastating economic crisis, which has plunged around three-quarters of the population into poverty and for delaying any semblance of economic recovery. and responsibility.
The resolution, led by MEP Christophe Grudler, who is part of the Renew Europe bloc, urged the EU to keep up the pressure on political leaders in Lebanon, where a government was formed last week after more than a year of political stalemate.
“We find out who is responsible for the political and economic crisis: all factions, most ministries, many corrupt MPs, ”Grudler told Al Jazeera. “We write in black and white what everyone knows in Lebanon. “
The resolution condemns in particular the rejection of a rescue plan approved by the IMF and presented by the previous Lebanese government.
He said Lebanese lawmakers and political leaders rejected the plan because of “vested interests in preserving the interests of Lebanese banks,” and blocked a forensic audit of the Central Bank as its governor, Riad Salameh , is the subject of an investigation by France for money laundering. .
The resolution also criticized officials for obstructing the investigation into the Beirut port explosion and echoed calls from international rights groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as the families of some of the victims, for a international and independent fact-finding mission.
At the end of July, the EU adopted a legal framework to sanction Lebanese officials engaged in corruption, blocking economic reforms and accountability, as well as obstructing government formation.
Lebanon last week formed a full government for the first time in more than a year longer than Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Grudler said all eyes were on the investigation into the Beirut port explosion and the process of economic recovery.
“We call on all EU member states, as well as the UK and Switzerland, to work together and put on the EU’s sanctions list the names of high-level corrupt politicians, who hinder the investigation into the explosion, hampering the stimulus package, ”Grudler said. noted. “We need to freeze assets and ban the travel of key politicians at EU level. We must listen to the Lebanese people.
The resolution also called for a timely general election in May 2022 and the establishment of an international humanitarian task force under the auspices of the United Nations to ensure that aid delivery is efficient and network protected. of political patronage, in order to improve confidence.
The resolution is a departure from previous milder efforts to pressure Lebanese officials.
Following the devastating explosion at the Port of Beirut in August 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to push Lebanese officials to resume talks with the IMF and implement economic reforms, but to no avail.
Imad Salamey, associate professor of political affairs in the Middle East at the Lebanese American University, said Europe’s firm resolve is an attempt to “reaffirm its bargaining power and position of power.”
“I think, in general, the European Union led by France in particular … is trying to display a tough stance and an ability to penalize those who defy its guidelines,” Salamey told Al Jazeera.
“It also sends a strong message to Lebanese politicians that Europe remains a key player and has not expelled the country in favor of Iran or Syria.”
The Lebanese government has yet to comment on the resolution.
Schams El Ghoneimi, political adviser to the Renew Europe bloc in the European Parliament, told Al Jazeera that the resolution could signal a possible change in the EU’s policy towards Lebanon.
“We have moved from statements calling for reforms to an EU sanctions regime against those who hamper anti-corruption reforms in Lebanon,” he said.
The resolution could create a political space for European countries to take tougher positions and measures against the Lebanese authorities for corruption and to block reforms and accountability mechanisms, he said.