Saturday

26th May 2018

Investigation

British firm to guard EU diplomats in Beirut

  • G4S van in London. The firm also works with leading banks and sports events, such as the 2012 London Olympics (Photo: g4s.com)

The EU foreign service has hired British firm G4S to guard its diplomats in Lebanon, amid increasing sectarian violence.

The company, the world's largest private security firm, is to take over from the EU's current contractor, Argus, a small French business registered in Cyprus, on 1 September.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The EU will pay G4S between €3 million and €5 million over the next four years.

Its job will be to look after the EU building in Achrafieh, a Christian district in downtown Beirut, to guard the homes of the 20-or-so expat staff who work there and to provide bodyguards for when they travel around or when EU visitors come to town.

The Argus-G4S handover comes at a time of escalating security problems.

Recent months have seen deadly clashes, including in Beirut, between Lebanese Sunni Muslims allied with rebels in neighbouring Syria and Lebanese Shia Muslims who back the Syrian regime.

In the latest incident, on Friday (9 August), a Lebanese Shia Muslim group calling itself Zuwwar al-Imam Rida kidnapped two Turkish pilots on the main road from Beirut's airport.

The EU last month annoyed the top Shia Muslim power in Lebanon, Hezbollah, by designating its military wing as a terrorist entity.

A Hezbollah-linked newspaper, Al Akhbar, later said EU soldiers in Unifil, the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, should see themselves as "operating behind enemy lines."

Two security contacts, who asked not to be named, told EUobserver the EU envoy in Lebanon, Angelina Eichhorst, also received personal threats.

But a spokesman for the European External Action Service (EEAS), Michael Mann, said he "cannot" confirm the information.

Meanwhile, G4S itself has a tricky image in the Arab world.

Libya last year denied it permission to guard EU diplomats in the country partly because G4S works for two Israeli detention centres, the Ofer prison and the SJ district police station, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Mann added that the EU is not concerned about G4S' Israeli link.

Olaf looks at Libya

G4S also lost the Libya job because the EU signed the contract despite the fact the firm had no Libyan permit.

The decision broke the EU's own tender rules and annoyed the Libyans, who said it violated their sovereignty.

The EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, is currently investigating how come EU officials made the botched decision.

Olaf does not comment on ongoing probes.

But Mann told this website: "G4S Lebanon are not under any investigation and we have not been advised by Olaf of any reason not to allow G4S to tender [for other EU work]."

A spokesman for G4S, Piers Zangana, noted that it already has "valid licences" for the new EU contract in Lebanon.

Second chance

The EEAS on Thursday gave the British firm a second chance to enter the Libyan market under the EU flag by publishing a new tender for bodyguards in Tripoli and Benghazi.

The deal is worth between €12 million and €15 million.

Unlike the Lebanon tender, and unlike normal EU security postings, the Libya tender does not say that candidates must be registered as a security firm in Libya or hold a Libyan permit in order to be eligible.

In what may be a nod to last year's events, it adds, however: "The contracting authority reserves the right to revoke its award of the contract in the case that the authorities in the country of deployment object to the presence of the selected contractor."

If G4S gets Libya it will again push out Argus, which currently protects EU staff in the country.

EU men with guns: A comedy of errors

The EU foreign service just did a U-turn on a €50mn tender for bodyguards in Kabul, with leaked documents posing questions how a British firm with a frightening track record won it in the first place.

Privatising immigration

A growing number of EU countries use private security firms to guard migrant detention centres and handle visa applications, raising questions of accountability if things go wrong. EUobserver looks at the rise of a new European security industry.

Visual Data

EU budget: Biggest cuts and increases

The European Parliament accused the EU Commission of not providing clear figures for a comparison of the proposed and the current EU budgets. We take a look at the main differences.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations