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EU Ambassador hosts reception at Sursok museum marking Europe Day

On the occasion of Europe Day on 9 May, the Ambassador of the European Union Christina Lassen hosted a reception at Sursock Museum. HE the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri represented HE the President of the Republic Michel Aoun. MP Atef Majdalani represented HE Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, and Ambassador Najla Assaker represented Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil.

The reception was attended by officials, personalities from the diplomatic, political, military, religious, economic, social, academic and media circles and from civil society.

The following is Lassen's speech:

Masa al kheir! Ahlan wa sahlan fikoun!

It is a great honour for me, the team of the EU Delegation and the ambassadors of the European Union Member States to welcome you all to celebrate Europe Day with us tonight.

Let me begin by welcoming a very special representative of the President, His Excellency Prime Minister Hariri. I also welcome representative of the Speaker of the Parliament, MP Aatef Majdalani and the representative of the Foreign Minister, Ambassador Najla Assaker, as well as all present ministers, Members of Parliament, and representatives of the Government.

Today is a special day for us. On the 9th of May every year, we celebrate the signing of the Schuman Declaration in 1950, which launched the European integration process and created the European Union we know today. It is a day where we reflect on how much we have achieved in those almost 70 years, as one of history's most important peace projects. And the past day's events show that in today's world, the European Union has become more indispensable than ever as a force for peace and stability in the world.

But for the European Union in Lebanon this week is also very special because we just witnessed the first Lebanese Parliamentary elections since 2009.

The European Union has for years been strongly arguing in favour of holding elections, so that Lebanese citizens could exercise their democratic rights.

Now it happened and that even on the basis of a new electoral law. Wa akhriran!

Just one year ago, when we last met here, very few had thought that this would be possible.

We are happy that the European Union � once again � was asked by the Government to deploy an independent electoral observation mission. The mission yesterday issued its preliminary findings yesterday and albeit it pointed to several remarks and lessons learned, the mission noted that elections were well-conducted and generally peaceful.

From my side, I had hoped that these elections would bring more Lebanese women into Parliament. This is something we from the European Union's side have been advocating strongly for a long time. The EU will continue to encourage women to present their candidacies, to vote, and to be active in politics, and by the next elections, we hope to see women break through.

***

With the holding of elections in the midst of regional turmoil, Lebanon has again showed a remarkable resilience.

In addition to the elections, the past two months' international conferences focussed on Lebanon have contributed to various aspects of the stability of this country that we all so cherish.

Two months ago, in Rome, the international community came together in a strong show of support to Lebanon's legitimate security institutions.

Last month in Paris, the international community endorsed the economic vision of the Government and pledged support for its ambitious Capital Investment Plan while stressing the need for structural and sectorial reforms for that plan to succeed.

And just two weeks ago, in Brussels, 80 delegations from all over the world came together to support the countries most affected by the Syrian crisis � in particular Lebanon � to give their political and financial support to those who bear the burden of hosting the Syrian refugees until they are able to return to their country.

It is no co-incidence that all the 3 capitals I just mentioned are European � the last one even the EU capital of Europe! And also, it is no co-incidence that in all 3 conferences, by far the greatest support came from Europe, the EU and its Member States.

All of this shows how Europe is invested in and committed to support the stability, security, and economic development of Lebanon.

And, more importantly, all of this shows that Europe is Lebanon's best friend. Europa afdal sadiq' la-lubnaan!

Not just because we love this country for its beauty and its people. But because Lebanon is a crucial partner for us right here next door to Europe.

Lebanon has become a symbol of co-existence and tolerance not just in this region, but for the whole world. It is a country that is � against all odds � delivering what PM Hariri calls a global public good to the rest of the world by hosting 1.5 million refugees.

And it is a country with which Europe shares fundamental values, but also some fundamental challenges such as terrorism, migration and need for economic growth.

All of this helps explain why the European Union wants to work with Lebanon and support this country the best we can and also to learn from you.

Our aim, therefore, is to assist Lebanon and make this country continue being 'a message'.

Criticism is often voiced about services and institutions not functioning well enough in this country.

From environmental pollution and non-functioning electricity to corruption and bad governance. Most of these issues were highlighted by the candidates during the elections.

We hope the newly elected parliament and the in-coming government will take the chance that the positive momentum created by the conferences and the elections and move closer to the Lebanon you all talk about and we all dream of. You all have the chance now to change.

And we are willing to support Lebanon all the way. Because as I said � Europe is Lebanon's best friend.

***

The European Union works with Lebanon in almost every thinkable sector. But the one thing that kits the whole thing together is our common cultural and historical heritage and the human connections. These people to people connections are what really make us strong.

That is why one EU program we are particularly proud about is the exchange program for students called Erasmus Plus.

Erasmus has helped students from Lebanese universities travel to Europe to study and live in a city of their choice. They all come back to Lebanon with their hearts and minds filled with unforgettable memories and experiences.

And we realize that they come back as incredible ambassadors for Europe.

I hosted some of these young people recently, and I can tell you that it was a very moving experience. Whether they were in Finland or France, Poland or Portugal, they were all convinced that their country of choice was the best in the world.

This is what makes you proud and happy to be European. And even more proud and happy to be representing Europe in this wonderful country, in Lebanon.

Long live Lebanon. Long live the European Union. Aacha Lubnaan. Aacha el Etihad al Europi !

Thank you for joining us tonight. I wish you all a lovely evening.

Source: National News Agency