Saturday

22nd Sep 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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Agenda

Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK

The EU will be watching closely how the political dynamics of Theresa May's Conservative party conference starting next week will influence Brexit negotiations. MEPs might also be forced to release their office expenses.

Feature

Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit

Decisions in the EU are a complicated process of intense negotiations, quid pro quos and horse-trading, until an agreement can finally be reached. But that didn't happen in Salzburg.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us