Friend to foe: EU prepares sanctions against Lebanon for the first time


  • EU enters detailed phase of Lebanese sanctions
  • Final decision expected in a month
  • EU sanctions to come after US imposes measures on Hezbollah

PARIS / BRUSSELS, May 12 (Reuters) – The European Union is preparing sanctions against Lebanese politicians seen as blocking the formation of a government, preparing the bloc’s first sanctions against its Middle East ally, frustrated by mismanagement ruling elite, diplomats said.

Led by the former French colonial power, the bloc seeks to step up pressure on Lebanon’s feuding politicians, after 10 months of crisis that has left Lebanon facing financial collapse, hyperinflation, blackouts. and fuel and food shortages.

No name has been discussed and Hungary has publicly denounced the EU’s efforts to pressure Lebanese politicians, but six diplomats and officials told Reuters that technical work has now started to prepare for sanctions – the so – saying designation criteria – after EU foreign ministers agreed to take action on Monday. .

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

Paris says it has already taken steps to restrict the entry of some Lebanese officials, to block efforts to deal with the unprecedented crisis, which is rooted in decades of corruption and state debt. .

“The level of impatience with the ruling class is increasing. They don’t seem to have the best interests of their people at heart. Expect a decision in the next three to four weeks,” a senior EU diplomat said .

The EU must first put in place a sanctions regime which could then see individuals face travel bans and asset freezes.

There are divisions among the 27 EU states over the wisdom of EU sanctions, but the two main powers in the bloc, France and Germany, are in favor, which should prove crucial. A larger group of nations has yet to refine its approach.

However, officials say it is customary at the technical and preparatory stage for countries to remain cautious and that once a political agreement between EU governments is in place, they will rally around France.

“It’s just a matter of time. We have what we want,” a senior French diplomat said after Monday’s meeting.

Given Hungary’s opposition, the working hypothesis is now to opt for the approach of each of the remaining 26 EU countries to individually impose sanctions, as well as offer assistance.

CARROTS AND STICKS

“The people are suffering but the political leaders are not taking their responsibilities as the country is literally falling apart,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters.

“We are working on an approach that combines the carrot and the stick,” he said.

An EU options document explains how Lebanon could benefit financially from a variety of aids, but diplomats said there was nothing to suggest these carrots would attract Lebanese politicians and it was now just a matter of of “sticks”.

France has not made public the measures it has taken alone, or against whom, and the potential impact is unclear as some Lebanese politicians have dual nationality. French officials say a list of names is in place and has not been disclosed in order to “shake up” and continue to guess Lebanese politicians.

Diplomats also said the EU should also decide whether and how to target the political arm of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed armed movement which holds enormous power in Lebanon and is also held responsible for part of the status quo. Politics.

The group is less likely to have interests in the EU.

In a possible signal to the EU, the United States for the first time under President Joe Biden on Tuesday sanctioned seven Lebanese nationals who they said were linked to Hezbollah’s financial firm and called on governments around the world to take action against it. Read more

Reporting by John Irish and Robin Emmott, editing by William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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