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Governo Italiano

Sereni: "Italy is ready to support the rebirth of Lebanon. These are the three challenges Beirut has to face". (Il Foglio)

Date:

08/13/2020


Sereni:

With the resignation of the Diab government in Lebanon, the dramatic interweaving of three emergencies has become very evident: humanitarian, economic-social and political.

On a humanitarian level, the terrible explosion on 4 August in the port of Beirut plunged hundreds of dead, thousands injured and the enormous destruction of the city. This situation was already challenging due to COVID-19 and the massive presence of Syrian refugees. The response of the international community with the donor conference promoted by French President Macron, in which Italy participated with President Conte, promptly and rightly reiterated the need for an impartial and independent investigation to find out the causes of the tragedy. Also, it was relaunched the urgent need for reforms capable of rebuilding a relationship of trust between the institutions and the Lebanese people.

Economically and socially, Lebanon has been struggling for some time. The deep crisis, culminating on 7 March last with the first default of the country and an extremely heavy devaluation of the national currency. All the leading macroeconomic indicators are mainly negative, with an expected contraction in GDP of minus 8% in 2020 and a sharp rise in indicators relating to poverty (which would increase from 22% to 45% of the population in 2019-2020) and extreme poverty (from 16% to 22%). Despite the existence of a rescue plan presented to the international financial institutions in recent months, the differences of opinion and approach among the Lebanese authorities themselves have so far made it impossible to open real and concrete negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Diab government, supported by the CPL of President Aoun (Maronite), Amal and Hezbollah (Shiites), as well as by minor Sunni formations and some independents, and opposed by the leading Sunni parties, beginning with the Future Current of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has proved to be too fragile to be able to withstand this "perfect storm".

The popular protest resumed in the aftermath of the explosion on 4 August. The protest is the result of a deep and legitimate social malaise and the demand of the new generations for a radical change, which all political and institutional actors in Lebanon will have to deal with in the coming days, whether they try the path of a new executive or go down the road of early elections. In short, Lebanon has a triple challenge ahead of it. Politically, to reach - through a dialogue of national unity - a new point of internal balance concerning a confessional system that has guaranteed peace to the country but also shown its limits. On the economic level, to carry out the necessary reforms to favour a new productive system, no longer based solely on finance and the role of the banks, but capable of generating sustainable development for the benefit of the entire country. At the geopolitical level, avoid being dragged into regional tensions and crises surround it, with the consequent destabilizing effects. But the path is narrow, and the time to intervene is minimal.

In this dramatic context, there is no need to recall the interest of the international community - and first and foremost of Europe and Italy - to avoid the collapse of the country in any way. It is enough to recall the dynamics between Lebanon and Israel which remain particularly complex and conflictual, as the numerous episodes of tension along the Blue Line have highlighted in recent months. The Unifil mission - whose mandate will be renewed at the end of this month at the United Nations - sees the participation of one of our essential military contingent and is led by the Italian General Stefano Del Col. This leading role, whose value and balance are fully recognized, also gives us the responsibility to put in place every useful initiative to support Lebanon at this challenging time. Italy has long made a long-term investment in the security and development of Lebanon. An investment that we must continue to cultivate. After all, bilateral relations with the cedar country are key in the field of Defence, with the Mibil training mission, economically, with the presence of critical national companies, in the area of international cooperation, with Lebanon included among the priority countries. All the above issues require strong commitment and participation from Italy and France and actions carried out within the European framework. It is essential to put in place new resources and projects and to go beyond the vital solidarity in these emergency hours to support the Lebanese to reconstruct Beirut and to implement the reforms needed to get out of the crisis.


Periodical:

Il Foglio

Author:

Marina Sereni

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