After the Beirut blast: How to help Lebanon?
At a donor conference on Sunday attended by more than 30 heads of state and government representatives, around 200 million euros in emergency aid was pledged for the reconstruction of Lebanon after the devastating explosion in Beirut. The aid money is to be channelled through the UN, bypassing authorities suspected of corruption. Lebanon needs more than money now, commentators stress.
Relief is not enough
The Frankfurter Rundschau suspects that the rushed conference was merely intended to divert attention from the issue of refugees:
“The idea seems to be to rustle up a little humanitarian aid to alleviate the worst problems and then to get back to the day's business. But the country needs more than just handouts. What is needed is billions of dollars and comprehensive help in dealing with the refugee issue. This will involve expanding the healthcare system and setting up schools, housing and if necessary providing relief by allowing more refugees to enter the EU. Political reforms aimed at modernising the state must be carried out by the Lebanese alone. Any influence in this area is to be ruled out. But the West cannot and must not shirk its duties in dealing with the repercussions of the war in Syria.”
Geostrategic games must stop
Lebanon-born playwright and director Wajdi Mouawad explains in Le Monde that the country needs more than money and declarations of solidarity:
“First and foremost it needs encouragement for its revolutions. ... The youth in particular will express their thirst and anger, and they need support so that those who are oppressing the country are removed from their posts. The rulers of Iran, Israel, Turkey, Russia, the US and Saudi Arabia have shown their concern and voiced solidarity with the people of Lebanon. To make good on their tears and words they must stop making Lebanon their instrument; that of the Iranians against the Israelis, of the Israelis against the Syrians, of the Turks against the Europeans, of the Americans against the Russians, and of the Saudis against the Iranians.”
French influence entails risks
Ukrayinska Pravda wonders whether Macron's formula "money for reforms" can be implemented in Lebanon:
“France is not involved in the Shiite-Sunni conflict. It has not declared the political wing of Hezbollah to be terrorists. This expands its scope for influence in the country. While the French plans to stabilise Lebanon seem feasible, the risks must also be mentioned. Hezbollah will not accept a loss of power. The country is also awaiting the decision of the International Criminal Court on the 2005 murder of former prime minister Rafic Hariri, due on August 18. This could result in a new risk of political destabilisation. And new opportunities for regional players to take advantage of the crisis.”
Don't leave the Mediterranean region to the Gulf monarchies
If only in its own interest, Europe must not abandon Lebanon now, argues historian Andrea Riccardi in Corriere della Sera:
“The alternative would be an influx of petrodollars from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. That would mean a reconstruction based solely on business - completely undemocratic and without any respect for the country's history or structure. A reconstruction that relies on the Lebanese clans, enriching them and nipping the renewal of civil society - the only healthy element in the country - in the bud. ... At the very minimum a major Italian-French-German initiative is required. In view of the crisis in Libya and the fragile situation in Tunisia, losing Lebanon would mean having to come to terms with a different and certainly worse Mediterranean region.”