EU warns of sanctions over delay in Lebanese Cabinet formation

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned that the bloc could impose sanctions on Lebanese politicians over their involvement in the ongoing political stalemate of the country.

Borrell’s comments on Saturday came following his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun to discuss obstacles hindering government formation, reports Xinhua news agency.

The top EU official said Lebanese politicians must quickly form a new government, implement reforms and reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to get the country out of its crisis.

Lebanon’s crisis started in late 2019 amid shortage in US dollar reserves.

It was further exacerbated by the explosions that rocked the Port of Beirut, resulting in the resignation of the cabinet of Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab on August 10, 2020.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was appointed on October 22, 2020 but he has been incapable of forming a new cabinet due to his differences with President Aoun over distribution of ministerial shares.

In their last meeting held in March, Aoun and Hariri again failed to reach a consensus, raising concerns about further instability and a total economic and financial collapse in the country.

“We cannot understand that nine months after the resignation of a Prime Minister, there is still no government in Lebanon,” Borrell said.

He said that only an urgent agreement with the IMF will rescue the country from a financial collapse.

“There is no time to waste. You are at the edge of the financial collapse,” he said.

Borrell said the EU stands ready to assist Lebanon and its people if the country succeeds in striking a deal with the IMF.

The Beirut blasts and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have exacerbated the country’s economic situation, driving thousands of companies out of business while leaving thousands of people unemployed.

Figures released by the World Bank showed that over 50 per cent of the Lebanese people have become “poor”.

In a new report released on June 1, the World Bank said that Lebanon’s prolonged severe economic depression may place it among the 10 most severe crises globally since the mid-19th century.