Former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati: "Lebanon is still standing and a point of reference"
- Exclusive WSN interview with Former Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati conducted by Manuela Paraipan -
Manuela Paraipan: Who is Najib Mikati, in his own words?
Najib Mikati: I am the former Prime Minister of Lebanon. I am currently a member of Parliament. I was elected in 2000, and again in 2009. I represent Tripoli. I was Minister of Public Works and Transport from 1998 to 2004, and in 2005 I became Premier.
Manuela Paraipan: In 2005, you became Prime Minister in a climate of political and security instability. Why did you accept the position? And how did you manage to overcome the immediate challenges?
Najib Mikati: I had a vision at that time, after the tragedy of President Rafiq Hariri, that Lebanon should be kept safe, and that we should shift Lebanon's position from where it was to a different place. I succeeded. During my mandate, we successfully held parliamentary elections. I have also tried to implement my vision of having a free, independent and democratic Lebanon. The situation changed dramatically. However, I did my best to show the international community that Lebanon can be independent.
Manuela Paraipan: If you were to compare Lebanon before and after 2005, what would be your immediate impressions?
Najib Mikati: Before 2005 we went through various phases: an independent phase until 1975, then from 1975 to 1989, and from 1990 to 2005. If you want to zoom in, we could focus on the Taef agreement. Unfortunately, Taef was selectively implemented. I said it yesterday, I say it today, and will say it tomorrow: Taef should be fully applied. Once you have that, you can proceed further with reform.
Manuela Paraipan: You spoke earlier of your vision, and I know you masterminded the Beirut Pact. How can it be implemented or advanced today?
Najib Mikati: The implementation depends on the approach of other parties. The Beirut Pact is not the work of one man or one party. I received comments and remarks from different politicians and parties, and many contributed to it.
Manuela Paraipan: Is it a partnership?
Najib Mikati: It is a partnership, and everyone felt they were part of it. We should all be aware of the problems we face, and come up with possible solutions. These suggestions could be correct or not, but everyone has the right to participate. It is a social and economic pact. Politically, we have an accord. In socio-economic terms, I would like to structure it, and make Lebanon a point of attraction in terms of a growing economy. The Beirut Pact was not implemented at that time, because as you know I resigned. I passed it to the designated Premier, and I am keen to see it moving forward.
Manuela Paraipan: Why isn't there a government after a three month hiatus?
Najib Mikati: It has been four months, in fact. I don't see huge obstacles. Nonetheless, I ask myself whether there is something we are not seeing clearly? Things that we cannot foresee?
Manuela Paraipan: Neither from a regional nor a local perspective?
Najib Mikati: I am a Lebanese leader, therefore I put it in a Lebanese context. Constitutionally, we can form the government through negotiation. Not having a government is not in our benefit.
Manuela Paraipan: What are your thoughts on the European Neighborhood policy, and how do you see Lebanese-European ties evolving?
Najib Mikati: We are part of the Mediterranean area. The market for us is the Gulf and Europe. The Europeans are our undeclared partners. We need to structure a real partnership advantageous for all sides. What they are asking of us is not for the EU's benefit, but for our mutual interest.
Manuela Paraipan: Are you optimistic about Lebanon's future?
Najib Mikati: Whenever this question is raised you have to look at the history of the country. Whenever there is a problem, we somehow manage to solve it. In spite of everything, Lebanon is still standing and it is a point of reference. We are at a critical moment from a regional point of view and also because of the accumulation of problems inside the country. Nonetheless, I am confident that we can get through this phase successfully.