Macron to Host Fundraising Conference for Beirut as EU Conveys Solidarity

August 9, 2020 Updated: August 9, 2020

French President Emmanuel Macron will host U.S. President Donald Trump and other political leaders on Sunday for a U.N.-endorsed donors’ conference by video to raise emergency relief for Lebanon following this week’s massive explosion in Beirut. U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed is co-organizer of the meeting.

Lebanon was already mired in deep political and economic crisis when the blast ripped through its main port on Tuesday, killing 158 people, injuring more than 6,000, and destroying a swathe of the city.

The cost of rebuilding Beirut could run into the billions. Economists forecast the blast could wipe up to 25 percent off of the country’s GDP.

Many Lebanese are angry at the government’s response and say the disaster highlighted the negligence of a corrupt political elite. Protesters stormed government ministries in Beirut and trashed the offices of the Association of Lebanese Banks on Saturday.

Beirut Protest
A woman shouts at a member of the army during anti-government demonstrations in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 8, 2020. (Marwan Tahtah/Getty Images)
Beirut protest
A soldier throws a stone during anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon, on August 8, 2020. (Marwan Tahtah/Getty Images)

Macron visited Beirut on Thursday, the first world leader to do so after the explosion, and promised the Lebanese people humanitarian aid would come but that profound political reform was needed to resolve the country’s problems and secure longer term support.

“I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands,” Macron told the throngs who greeted him.

France Macron Lebanon Beirut
French President Emmanuel Macron and Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun wear protective face masks as they meet following Tuesday’s blast in Beirut’s port area, at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, on Aug. 6, 2020. (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

There has been an outpouring of sympathy for Lebanon from around the world this week and many countries have sent immediate humanitarian support such as a medical supplies.

Trump will participate in the video-link conference.

“Everyone wants to help!” he posted on Twitter.

Trump and Macron
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shake hand at the end of a press conference following meetings at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on July 13, 2017. (Alain Jocard/AFP via Getty Images)

Germany will commit an additional 10 million euros ($11.79 million) in emergency aid on top of the rescue contributions already underway, its foreign minister said.

The UK said it will pledge 20 million pounds ($26. 09 million) at the conference, in addition to the 5 million pounds ($6. 52 million) already made available.

Representatives of Britain, the European Union, China, Russia, Egypt, and Jordan are expected to join the conference, hosted by Macron from his summer retreat on the French Riviera.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, visited Beirut on Saturday. Together with the president of the European Commission, he urged all EU Member States to intensify their assistance to Lebanon both for immediate needs and for longer-term reconstruction.

“I’m touched by the bravery of the Lebanese people who have been hit by this tragedy in an already difficult context. The EU is a long-standing friend and partner. We are in full solidarity with Lebanon more than ever in these difficult times.”

The EU said it has mobilized 33 million euros ($38. 90 million) for emergency needs and more than 250 rescuers from European Member States are on the ground.

During his visit, Michel stressed the importance of political reform in Lebanon.

“Local political forces should seize the opportunity and unite around a national effort to respond to the immediate needs but also more long term challenges the country is facing. It’s of critical importance for Lebanon to implement the fundamental structural reforms. The Lebanese can count on the European Union in this effort—but internal unity is key.”

He also called for concrete steps to reform the financial system and to adopt anti-corruption measures, a EU statement said.