The EU has introduced a new asset freeze regime against Lebanon, but without designating any persons under the new regime as of yet. On 30 July 2021, the EU adopted legislative acts establishing a new sanctions framework against Lebanon to address EU concerns about a further deterioration of democracy and the rule of law, and of the economic, social and humanitarian situation in the country. The framework allows the EU to respond by targeting individuals, entities and bodies held responsible for the situation, including by undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon, with an asset freeze and a travel ban.
In December 2020, the EU Council noted its "increasing concern with respect to the grave financial, economic, social and political crisis" in Lebanon, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020.1 In particular, the Council stressed the urgent need for political reforms by the Lebanese authorities and called on all Lebanese stakeholders and political forces to support the urgent formation of "a mission-driven, credible and accountable government in Lebanon, able to implement the necessary reforms".
Despite these and more recent EU calls for urgent Lebanese reforms,2 the EU has noted that no progress has been made, seemingly due to a political stalemate in Lebanon. In press statements following the Foreign Affairs Council of 12 July 2021, High Representative Josep Borrell announced that the EU would therefore be launching a new sanctions regime against Lebanon.3
Under the new sanctions regime the EU intends to impose targeted measures on parties responsible for undermining democracy or the rule of law in Lebanon4. The framework provides a legal basis to sanction any person or entity involved in one of the following actions:
- obstructing or undermining the democratic political process by persistently hampering the formation of a government or by obstructing or seriously undermining the holding of elections;
- obstructing or undermining the implementation of plans approved by Lebanese authorities and supported by relevant international actors, including the EU, to improve accountability and good governance in the public sector or the implementation of critical economic reforms, including in the banking and financial sectors and including the adoption of transparent and non-discriminatory legislation on the export of capital; and
- serious financial misconduct, concerning public funds, insofar as the acts concerned are covered by the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and the unauthorised export of capital.
The new EU sanctions regime is in addition to existing EU (and UN) sanctions imposing an arms embargo on Lebanon and an asset freeze regime established in response to the 2005 terrorist bombing in Beirut (under which no persons have been listed yet). It provides a legal basis for the EU to subject listed individuals, entities and bodies to an asset freeze and a travel ban (in the case of individuals). Under the EU asset freeze, all funds and economic resources in the EU belonging to or controlled by listed parties will be frozen. Furthermore, no funds or economic resources may be made available – directly or indirectly – to or for their benefit. Economic resources are broadly defined to include anything that can be used to obtain funds, goods or services. Standard EU nexus principles apply in relation to the sanctions, as well as typical asset freeze exemptions.
At this point, no parties have been listed. It is unclear if and when the first listings will occur.
1 See Council conclusions on Lebanon of 7 December 2020.
2 See, for example, the statement by Josep Borell of 16 July 2021.
3 See press release.
4 See Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/1277 of 30 July 2021 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Lebanon, and Council Regulation (EU) 2021/1275 of 30 July 2021 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Lebanon.
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