EU paves way for sanctions over Lebanon crisis

Penalties could be brought against the ruling elite over the political crisis racking the country

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell after a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on July 12. EPA
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EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to move ahead towards sanctions against Lebanon's ruling elite over the political crisis racking the country, the bloc's foreign policy chief said.

Josep Borrell said the top diplomats from the 27 nations gave approval at a meeting in Brussels to establish a legal framework for measures against Lebanese leaders who have driven their nation into economic collapse.

"The objective is to complete this by the end of the month," Mr Borrell said.

The political crisis has left the country without a functioning government since the last one resigned after a massive explosion killed dozens and destroyed large areas of Beirut in August 2020.

"The economy's imploding and the suffering of the people of Lebanon is continuously growing," Mr Borrell said.

"They need to have a Lebanese government in order to avoid the breakdown of the country, [one that is] fully able to implement reforms and protect this population."

Lebanon is mired in what the World Bank has called one of the worst economic crises since the 1850s, and the cash-strapped nation is struggling to buy enough fuel to keep the lights on.

The economic crisis has seen the Lebanese pound lose more than 90 per cent of its value against the dollar on the black market, and left more than half the population living below the poverty line.

In April, France imposed sanctions by restricting entry of Lebanese figures it says are responsible for the political crisis.

Updated: July 12, 2021, 9:16 PM