|EU-Lebanon: entry into force of the Interim Agreement 1 March 2003|
|Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relations, speaking on the eve of the entry into force of the EU-Lebanon Interim Agreement said: "To-morrow is an important day for the European Union's relations with Lebanon, the day on which the trade measures we have negotiated with Lebanon enter into force as an Interim Agreement.
This brings Lebanon and Europe closer together as part of the wider Euro-Mediterranean area". Commissioner Lamy also expressed his satisfaction: "I am particularly pleased that Lebanon has opted for the fast track by seeking through this Interim Agreement an early start to the transition to free trade.
This demonstrates that Lebanon is determined to meet, sooner rather than later, its commitments on approximating its trade and economic legislation with that of the European Union. It is also a step in the right direction towards Lebanon's accession to the WTO."
The new Agreement with the European Union is part of Lebanon's economic modernisation strategy, and is consistent with its bid for WTO membership, and with economic and financial reforms announced by Prime Minister Hariri at the Paris II donor conference in November 2002.
Commissioner Patten added: "When I met President Lahoud in Beirut in early February, as well as members of the government, it was evident that both sides shared the conviction that the Association Agreement must show tangible gains to our respective populations. We have already agreed a €12 million package of support measures to help Lebanon take the administrative and legal steps to put the Agreement into practice.
A further €15 million is to be agreed this year for standards and product certification facilities. The European Commission will also provide €17 million in support to small and medium businesses to help them meet the challenge and opportunities offered by the Interim Trade Agreement. Lebanon will immediately benefit from market access for its agricultural and processed agricultural products.
"It is my hope that Lebanese goods will become a familiar sight in our shops and supermarkets", said Mr Patten, "and that European businesses will take up the increased trade and investment opportunities in Lebanon".
The EU-Lebanon Association Agreement, which covers political, economic, social and cultural relations, is one of eight similar accords between the Union and its Euro-Mediterranean Partners. It was ratified by the Lebanese Parliament on 2 December 2002, and by the European Parliament on 16 January. All 15 Member States need to ratify the accord before it becomes formally effective. So far, Ireland has voted to adopt the agreement. The Interim Agreement, which enters into force on March1st, will remain valid until the ratification of the Association Agreement is completed.
Brussels,03 11 2003