EU lays out legal framework for sanctions on Lebanon

Punitive measures aimed at country's political elite may be only weeks away

A woman walks past a damaged restaurant in the aftermath of the August 4 explosion at Beirut's port, Lebanon. Reuters
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The EU has finalised a sanctions regime for Lebanon, laying out the legal criteria for long-threatened measures including asset freezes and travels bans.

The regime, which does not yet include any names or entities, sets out three criteria under which people may be sanctioned by the 27-member bloc.

The criteria are obstructing or undermining the democratic political process, the obstruction of reforms in governance and the financial sector as well as serious financial misconduct concerning public funds — which may extend to the “unauthorised export of capital".

Officials say that designations regarding financial misconduct are the strongest legally of the three.

“Sanctions consist of a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze for persons and an asset freeze for entities. In addition, EU persons and entities are forbidden from making funds available to those listed,” the EU said.

“Despite repeated calls on Lebanese political forces and stakeholders to act in the national interest and to no longer delay the formation of a fully empowered government capable of meeting the country’s urgent needs and implementing critical reforms, there is no progress,” it added.

The National understands it is unlikely that any sitting members of Parliament or journalists would be included in the designations, with the listing of names likely to be a continuing process over the coming months. All designations must be unanimously agreed upon by the EU's member states.

The regime comes after weeks of wrangling between EU states over the criteria for sanctions. France and Germany have been leading the charge, while Hungary has been among the states more hesitant to introduce punitive measures.

With Brussels set to break time for much of August, it is unlikely that any names will be approved before the start of September.

But European embassies in Beirut have already begun compiling lists of names of those who might fall under the criteria. Non-EU embassies, including those of the UK and the US, are also beginning to compile lists for their own unilateral measures.

The nomination of Najib Mikati as prime minister-designate this week has done little to slow the push for sanctions in certain corners of the EU, with European officials telling The National that until concrete reforms were observed, sanctions would remain “on the table”.

Lebanon is facing a number of economic and political crises that the World Bank has labelled among the worst in 150 years. The country has also been plagued by political inertia since the resignation of the government of Hassan Diab in August last year following the explosion at Beirut port.

Updated: July 30, 2021, 6:37 PM