Statement by Minister Lehtomäki at the Stockholm Conference for Lebanon's Early Recovery

Stockholm Conference for Lebanon's Early Recovery on August 31, 2006

Statement by Ms Paula Lehtomäki, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, on behalf of the European Union


Mr and Madam Chairperson, Prime Minister Siniora, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Union would like to thank the Government of Sweden for convening this international conference for Lebanon's early recovery. I would also like to compliment very warmly the Government of Lebanon and the United Nations for the hard work done to provide us with the information on the early recovery needs of Lebanon ahead of this conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Two weeks ago I travelled together with EU Commissioner Michel to the region in order to be able to make a personal assessment of the situation on the ground. It is evident that civilian suffering on both sides of the conflict has been immense. We saw the suffering of those who had lost their loved ones, the horrendous destruction of people's lives, homes and infrastructure. But we also saw in the early hours of the cessation of hostilities the determination of the Lebanese people to return to their homes and rebuild their lives. 

I came to Stockholm today bearing in my mind a quotation of the speech that you, Prime Minister Siniora, gave at the Rome Conference one month ago. I quote: "We owe our people, with your support, a solution that will not allow any further destruction and will help us rebuild our nation and strengthen our democracy." End of quote. This sentence sums up the goal of today's conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Union once again reiterates its determination to help and assist the people of Lebanon to return to as normal a life as possible under these circumstances. The outcome of today's conference should be to ensure that the remaining humanitarian needs of Lebanon are met. This conference should also set the framework for the early recovery work and facilitate this process.

It is clear that humanitarian aid, early recovery and reconstruction efforts must be conducted under the leadership of the Lebanese Government and in the context of its national plan for rehabilitation, reform and development. Therefore, the European Union welcomes the establishment of the Relief and Recovery Cell at Prime Minister Siniora's office to take over the coordination of the early recovery and later on the reconstruction efforts.  It goes without saying that it is important that donor contributions be coordinated properly in order to avoid duplication and a waste of efforts.

The Government of Lebanon will need all the strength and determination possible to lead this work - to bear the responsibility for effective coordination. I wish to express my encouragement and good wishes to the Lebanese Government on behalf of the European Union to carry out this work.  But in the face of the destruction, Mr Siniora, let me assure you that the European Union will stand by the side of the Lebanese people in solidarity. The Association Agreement between the EU and Lebanon continues to serve as the basis for our relations also in the long term.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Union and its Member States provided around 120 million euros and substantial in-kind assistance to meet the acute humanitarian aid needs during the conflict. In order to ensure that aid will reach the needy, there is an urgency of lifting the air and sea blockade. By the same time, effective control measures must be established in order to prevent arms that are not authorised by the Lebanese government to enter Lebanon. The European Union also reminds parties of this conflict of the obligations under International Humanitarian Law to grant access to humanitarian workers and relief items to reach the populations affected by the conflict.

We note that the needs described in the Flash Appeal launched by the United Nations in the early days of the conflict have almost been met, and that the needs have now shifted to early recovery, leading to reconstruction later on.

The European Union and its Member States will continue to support the Lebanese Government in its early recovery efforts as new pledges, already made by the time of this conference, show.  My own country, Finland, pledges a further 3,0 million euros to the work in connection with locating and destroying unexploded ordnances and mine clearance, oil spill recovery as well as to assisting in the shelter and health sectors.

We believe that pledges for long-term reconstruction can only be soundly based on a full needs assessment. At the same time, we are aware that it is too early to present such an assessment at this stage. The European Union wants to assure that it stands ready to help preparing this kind of assessment under the leadership of the Government of Lebanon and in close cooperation with other international partners including the World Bank, by making available expertise and technical support. A comprehensive approach to reconstruction is the key to success. It is therefore essential that the needs assessment is undertaken in a coherent overall framework for the social, economic and political development of Lebanon.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We must ensure that violence will not reoccur. The political aspects and the root causes of the crisis must be dealt with. Therefore, it is important to find ways to rapidly and fully implement the UNSC Resolution 1701. This determination is demonstrated by EU Member States in their contributions of thousands of troops and support functions to UNIFIL. UNIFIL will play an important role in assisting the deployment of the Lebanese Army to Southern Lebanon. The significant overall contribution of the EU Member States to UNIFIL demonstrates that the European Union is living up to its responsibilities.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In order to reach peace and stability in the whole region, and in order to allow development and progress resume, the EU is committed to promoting a comprehensive peace plan for the Middle East in close cooperation with international partners and the countries in the region. However, it is the responsibility of the countries in the region to work out a sustainable and comprehensive solution so that the violent past could be put aside for good. We, outsiders, cannot want peace more than the parties themselves. There is no time to loose.

Thank you.