URGENT / LIBYA – From Sarkozy to Macron

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In December of 2015 the United Nations in agreement with the Security Council’s members recognised the Government of National Accord (GNA) as the legitimate State of Libya. The GNA controls the Western parts of the country, but has been rocked with violence from different breakaway factions and the Islamic State (IS).

Meanwhile in the East, Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s (until-know) illegitimate army has been under pressure by the UN but supported by several Arab states. Egypt has repeatedly carried out air rides against IS targets and Haftar opponents inside the territory. Things have now changed to the Marshal’s benefit.

The European Council has agreed to try to establish refugee camps inside Libya to vet the refugees wanting to come to Europe. For these camps to be set up there needs to be a government with solid institutions which can operate and protect them – with EU support. In July 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted talks between Haftar and the GNA in Tripoli for them to come to an agreement of sorts on how to reunite the country, while fighting terrorism.

The most important outcome of the meeting was the re-integration of Haftar into the international community. Moreover, relations improved between the two rival factions. Libya, which still doesn’t have a constitution is moving closer to reunification, but for who will hold the ultimate power and become President is still the most important question. Tensions between the GNA and Haftar’s army has thus far remained, but clashes are of less intense. Nevertheless, raids on the relevant army barracks regularly take place. These are carried out by the GNA, Haftar supporters, the Islamic State or from different breakaway factions inside all of these groups.

However, the EU has become keen to divert migrants and refugees on the way to Europe to other parts of the South and East so to let non-member governments handle the issue. Xenophobia and radicalism have been on the rise in the European countries and for the liberal leaders to remain in power it is essential to avoid another refugee crisis inside the Schengen zone.

Libya still remains a fragile state with two governments in opposition to each other. Foreign political manoeuvring and pressure on Libya is needed for it to unite, whether through democratic election or just putting up a hard-man in power who won’t refrain from using force. That would be Field-Marshal Haftar.

Where are the European Union norms which it so reverberates and are laid-down in its treaties? How can a democratic election take place where there are two rival governments, and where the threat of the (weakened) Islamic State remains?

Are we witnessing a different kind of European imperialism led by France, the country which initiated the war in Libya under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, fixed the fall of Colonel Ghaddafi and now seems close to succeed in reaching its initial goal: control of the Libyan oil production?

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Noel Daniel Vig

Political Scientist-Director of The Maghreb and Orient Courier Editions

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