Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth visited Lebanon on 2 and 3 May. His visit focused on the refugee crisis, which poses a considerable challenge for Europe, Germany and Lebanon alike. In Lebanon alone, there are almost one million – mainly Syrian – refugees in a country of four million inhabitants.
Developing the Lebanese school system: Germany the largest donor
Minister of State Roth visited an informal camp for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley and took part in lessons at a school where Syrian and Lebanese children are taught together. Germany is making a considerable contribution towards the expansion of the Lebanese school system, which UNICEF is helping to organise. During the last school year, the German Government provided 65 million euros, making it the biggest donor. The Minister of State said after his visit to Bekaa Valley:
Especially when it comes to dealing with the refugee crisis, Lebanon needs the help of the international community. That’s why I’ve come here to gain a first-hand impression of the refugees’ dramatic plight. This year we intend to make available around 300 million euros. These investments in education, health and vocational training are intended not only to benefit the refugees but also to help stabilise Lebanon. However, it remains crucial that peace and stability be restored in the region so that the refugees are able to return home.
Meetings with representatives of Lebanese and Syrian civil society
In Beirut, Minister of State Roth met the staff of the visa section at the German Embassy and thanked them for their dedication in processing the many individual visa applications. Moreover, the Minister of State had many meetings with politicians and representatives of Lebanese and Syrian civil society. The talks focused, among other things, on the conflict in Syria and its direct impact on Lebanon. The forthcoming local elections and the ongoing deadlock in Lebanon’s political system was also discussed at length. No elections have been held in Lebanon since 2010. Parliament, due to be re-elected in 2013, has extended its own mandate twice, while the office of President is vacant because the parties are unable to agree on a joint candidate.
Minister of State Roth stated:
Lebanon is a small country with many religions and communities. Lebanon‘s complex system was designed to ensure the political participation of all parties and religions. However, this is making decision-making difficult in many cases. The forthcoming local elections are now an important step in the right direction.