The Speaker of the Parliament was represented by MP Michel Moussa, and the Prime Minister by Minister Mohammad Mashnouq.
Ambassador Eichhorst gave the below address marking the occasion:
Member of Parliament Michel Moussa, Representative of the Speaker of the House Nabih Berri,
Minister Mohammad Machnouq, Representative of the President of the Council of Ministers Tammam Salam,
Dear colleagues and friends,
Welcome to the 65th celebration of Europe Day, here in Biel on the seashores of Beirut. Together with the Ambassadors from the European Union Member States and the colleagues from the EU Delegation, I would like to thank you all for celebrating with us our strong partnership and deep friendship.
This is the fifth and last year I speak on behalf of the European Union on 9 May in Lebanon. Tonight there will be no political speeches. You can read those on our Website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Tonight, rather, I wish to pay tribute to the women and men, girls and boys, living in Lebanon who, every day, work together to build a functioning, inclusive and secure contemporary civil state.
I salute all those who feel a strong affiliation with the values the European Union is founded on: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are still common to the European Union Member States societies where until today and, despite many unprecedented challenges, pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and solidarity prevail.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since Heads of States and Governments of the countries from the Southern Neighbourhood and the European Union met in Barcelona in 1995, the European Union has contributed through vast technical and economic support in the whole region. We currently have almost 2.2 billion Euros of grants and loans to Lebanon on-going – from the European Union, the Member States, the European Investment Bank and Member States development agencies.
‘Barcelona’ led to the European Neighbourhood Policy, whereby the European Union works with every country in the region based on specific jointly agreed Action Plans. The EU-Lebanon Action Plan was adopted in 2007 and reviewed in 2013. This year we are again revisiting how we can improve our partnership in order to achieve long-lasting results. Lebanon took a lead role in the region and is pro-actively challenging the European Union on how best to work for peace together.
Both our people in the European Union and in Lebanon know how – over the past 20 years – the political and security environment has changed dramatically and what huge impact this has on the lives of millions of people. We see this every day in the country.
I strongly believe that no Policy, Strategy, Action Plan, Road Map can succeed unless citizens, people living in the country, direct beneficiaries are involved, do participate and do feel their voices are being heard. Because all views really matter. And because working for Peace has become increasingly hard. This goes for Europe, this goes for Lebanon.
I wish to dedicate tonight, the night of 9 May, to the People working for Peace. Over all these years in Lebanon, this unique and stunning country, I have met thousands of people who work for Peace, who matter, who make a real difference. Tonight I salute all, without wanting to leave out any:
The servicemen and women of the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Internal Security Forces, the General Security, the Customs and Civil Defense; the de-miners; the service men and women of the United Nations Forces in the South: UNIFIL. The judges in court; members of bar associations; the guards in prisons; the prisoners who, after having served their sentences, wish to start a new life; the lawyers who defend fundamental human rights; the volunteers working in numerous charity organizations and religious institutions who care for the vast vulnerable population, for the many refugees, for people with no rights or no country to go back to and for the foreign migrant workers; the religious leaders; the dedicated teachers in public and private schools, the students and professors of the 21 universities we have a partnership with; the youth; the colleagues working in the 102 Lebanese NGOs who have received our financial support; the human rights defenders; all men and women who work for equality between women and men; the representatives of our implementing partners working with the United Nations; the European citizens who have come to Lebanon to study, work or live.
I wish to salute the media, members of the press corps, the movie and TV stars and personalities, artists and cultural actors – there are so many in Lebanon who keep on giving a very essential positive twist to the events in the country and the region. Let us not forget the hardworking medical doctors and nurses; the fire-brigades; road safety activists; those who protect the environment and teach us how to enjoy the beautiful nature of the country; all men and women working in the tourism sector; all who cultivate the land, grow crops and breed livestock; all sportsmen and – women – running and biking marathons for peace for all. The mayors and the members of the 585 municipalities we work with – many of whom I have met personally; the experts and researchers working in the energy, electricity and water sectors, in civil aviation and the telecom industry; the economic and business actors; the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture; the investors and traders; the bankers, those working in the service industry, in creative industries, the fantastic restaurants, retail and recreation. The employees of the public service; the 23 Ministers we work with on a daily basis. The 128 – today 127 – elected members in Parliament who are asked to uphold the Constitution and elect a new President; the political parties’ leaders and all involved in the governance of the country. And all I have forgotten.
Allow me to pay a special tribute to a Man of Peace par excellence, the President of the Council of Ministers Tammam Salam who patiently calls at the beginning of every Council of Ministers’ meeting for the election of a new President. Indeed the vacuum in this position has lasted now almost for one year. I believe many of you would agree when we say Lebanon needs a President and functioning state institutions, whereby citizens feel and know their voices are being heard and protected.
In going back to Brussels this Summer I promise you I will not forget any of the wonderful people I had the chance to meet and work with. I will continue to work on peace and security for Lebanon: your Peace is our Peace. I thank you all for your gracious invitations and hospitality – impossible to do this one by one – and I apologise if I could not always attend the many events. I will never forget the gesture of reaching out and including the European Union in your hearts and in your thoughts. Lebanon is for good in my heart and my mind, and this also goes for my husband Wafa’i Mansour and our daughter Elena.
Let me finally extend a special and big thank you to our team at the EU Delegation in Beirut, my colleagues Heads of Missions of the European Union Member States and their staff, for the wonderful cooperation we have had over these years, and for the contributions you have made to Europe Day tonight and to the EU-Lebanon Cooperation Days the past two days, and to all other activities we have undertaken together as one European Union.
Long live Lebanon, long live the European Union.