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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)

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EU and Lebanon

The partnership between the European Union (EU) and Lebanon aims to promote Lebanon’s development as a stable, democratic, politically open and economically strong country.

The EU-Lebanon Association Agreement entered into force in April 2006 and forms the legal basis of the partnership between the EU and Lebanon.

In November 2016, the EU and Lebanon adopted Partnership Priorities (extended until end 2021) which set out the framework for EU political engagement and enhanced cooperation with Lebanon. They also included an annexed EU-Lebanon Compact outlining mutual commitments and actions to address the impact of the Syrian crisis, and seeking to improve the living conditions of both refugees temporarily living in Lebanon and Lebanese citizens.

Bilateral cooperation

The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) was the key EU financial instrument for bilateral cooperation in Lebanon for the period 2014-2020. The new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) will frame the EU’s cooperation for the period 2021-2027. The instrument’s innovative approach includes but also looks beyond grant funding. An increased accent on blending EU grants with loans from European and International Financing Institutions will allow partner counties to unlock substantial level of concessional funding for investments. The new system of guarantees provided for under the NDICI will give access to additional funds from the crowding-in of both public and private investors.

Bilateral assistance follows multiannual programming through the Single Support Framework, which defines the areas of focus for the EU’s assistance, in line with the Partnership Priorities. For the period 2014-2020, the EU's bilateral assistance to Lebanon under the ENI amounted to €402.3 million and focuses on the following three priority sectors:

  • Promoting growth and job creation,
  • Fostering local governance and socio-economic development,
  • Promoting the rule of law, enhancing security.

Under the EU External Investment Plan and the blending mechanism of the Neighbourhood Investment Platform, Lebanon is benefiting from €51 million of EU grants which allowed Lebanon to access loans worth €736 million since 2011, for projects in the sectors of water and sanitation, roads and safety, energy efficiency and local urban development. EU grants increase the concessional nature of loans from International Financial Institutions and absorb political and economic risks.

At the Paris CEDRE Conference (Conférence économique pour le développement du Liban par les réformes et avec les entreprises) on 6 April 2018, the EU announced a package of up to €150 million over three years, conditioned upon progress in reforms, to support the revitalisation of the Lebanese economy, which could generate up to €1.5 billion in loans for Lebanon. The package was not mobilised due to the lack of progress in reforms.

The promotion and protection of human rights is an overarching theme for EU’s assistance in Lebanon, in line with the European consensus on development. Transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption are pursued in all actions supported by bilateral cooperation.

The EU is supporting capacity development and civil society in Lebanon, in the framework of the EU-Lebanon Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society, jointly elaborated by the EU and the EU Member States.

On 9 February 2021, the European Commission adopted a Joint Communication on the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood, establishing a new Agenda for the Mediterranean to relaunch and reinforce the EU’s partnership with the region. It will guide EU policy and programming towards the country for the coming years. The Joint Communication is accompanied by an Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours to ensure amongst others that the quality of life for people in the region improves and the economic recovery, including following the COVID-19 pandemic, leaves no one behind. The Plan includes 12 preliminary flagship initiatives to strengthen resilience, build prosperity and increase trade and investment to support competitiveness and inclusive growth. Relevant flagships for Lebanon will respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, Lebanese and refugees alike through (1) investment in the design of sustainable and comprehensive social assistance systems, (2) support to civil society to shape and monitor the implementation of key reforms in the context of the “Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework”, (3) support the accountability of local authorities for a reliable water service, (4) support the private sector to revitalise the economy and job creation, contributing to sustainable and gender-balanced growth.


Regional cooperation

In addition to bilateral cooperation, Lebanon benefits from regional and Neighbourhood-wide cooperation programmes under the ENI in the sectors of security, economic cooperation, energy, environment, climate, transport, media, youth and culture.

Under the EU twinning tool, the Lebanese public administration is partnering with European administrations for mutual learning and capacity building through sharing of EU best practices. Lebanon benefitted from two twinning projects in 2014-2020 in the sectors of civil aviation, veterinary services and food safety. Lebanon also benefits from TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument) that supports public administration reforms with 71 events in 2015-2020.

Syrian refugee crisis

The EU has spearheaded the international response to the Syrian crisis, supporting actions both inside Syria and in the affected neighbouring countries, with €24.9 billion mobilised by the EU and its Member States since 2011.

Lebanon and its people have been severely affected by the Syrian crisis, with over 865,000 refugees from Syria registered by UNHCR (December 2020) which is the highest number of refugees per capita in the world. The EU’s total assistance to help Lebanon manage the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis amounts to €2.4 billion since 2011 through its various instruments. This includes:

  • €670.3 million in bilateral assistance under the ENI
  • €955 million in non-humanitarian resilience assistance channeled through the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis since its creation in 2015 to help Lebanon cope with the refugee crisis, assist the refugees from Syria to strengthen their resilience and support them to become self-reliant.
  • €666 million in humanitarian assistance

This support is helping Lebanese institutions, vulnerable Lebanese and refugees from Syria by:

  • Protecting the most vulnerable, both Lebanese and Syrians, meeting their most pressing humanitarian needs such as health, food, shelter, water and sanitation,
  • Assisting Syrian refugees, ensuring them decent living conditions and access to basic services, including through advocacy on their legal registration in the country,
  • Promoting economic growth and job creation for both Lebanese and refugees, notably through facilitating access to basic, vocational and higher education, supporting private sector development, and facilitating trade with the EU. The aim is to foster the inclusive socio-economic development of Lebanon and increase the refugees' contribution to its economic growth,
  • Reinforcing the capacities of Lebanese institutions responsible for responding to the Syrian crisis, at national and local levels, including by investing in the upgrading of infrastructure to cope with the additional pressure resulting from the refugee presence.

At the Brussels I Conference (5 April 2017), the Brussels II Conference (24-25 April 2018) and the Brussels III Conference (12-14 March 2019) and the Brussels IV Conference (22-30 June 2020), the EU and the international community renewed their support to the critical efforts the Lebanese government and citizens are undertaking in response to the crisis. The Brussels V Conference takes place on 29 and 30 March 2021.

EU programmes are aligned with priorities in the response plan of the Lebanese Government to the consequences of the influx of refugees from Syria.

UNRWA and Palestine refugees

Lebanon hosts around 202,000 Palestine refugees, of whom around 28,000 come from Syria, displaced for a second time. The country benefits from EU contributions to the central budget of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which amounted to €903 million in 2014-2020. In addition and in the context of the Syrian crisis, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis is supporting UNRWA with targeted actions to meet the needs of Palestine refugees displaced from Syria as well as host communities for a total of €60 million since 2015.

Response to the 4 August Beirut port blast

The EU has been at the forefront of efforts to provide emergency support to Lebanon, redirecting more than €70 million for immediate needs. In addition, a package of almost €100 million was adopted to address the consequences at the port and neighbouring areas. The EU has developed with the UN and World Bank the Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework (3RF). The 3RF bridges the immediate humanitarian assistance with medium-term recovery and reconstruction efforts and sets out in detail the key reforms required to mobilise investment.

Other financing instruments

Lebanon participates in Erasmus+, which supports the modernisation of the higher education sector and promotes mobility and co-operation with EU higher education institutions. 2,948 Lebanese students, professors and university staff travelled to Europe, and 1,636 European counterparts travelled to Lebanon between 2015 and 2020.

Further information

Factsheets available to download

Key documents

For specific information (programme level), see below