Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Leading Libya forward?

With the apparent victory of the rebels in Libya, it is time to prepare for a life after Qaddafi, but Karel de Gucht, the European Commission for Trade, said: “you can forget the idea that you can start the reconstruction of the country tomorrow”[1]. Indeed it will take some time for the National Transitional Council (NTC) to become an interim government and most urgent are basic needs.

As a latest EU response, on the 29 August, the European Commission sent ECHO (Humanitarian Aid Directorate) experts to Tripoli and has opened a humanitarian aid office there.[2] The experts are ensuring that the assistance given by the European Union (health services, medicines, food, and drinking water) is delivered expeditiously and that new needs are identified and addressed immediately. The experts are working closely with the humanitarian partners present in the city, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Organisation for Migration, International Medical Corps and UNICEF. The Commission has allocated funds to Libya including: €10 million from the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument, €70 million in humanitarian aid, €4 million to support the activities of the international Committee of the Red Cross in Libya and €2 million for the NTC in order to set up an interim government. Moreover, the EC is working with other partners on the ground, such as the International Organisation for Migration, International Medical Corps and UNICEF.

So it is time for the EU to forget the challenges of establishing a response consensus to the Libyan crisis. A first priority for the EU now is to work in strong collaboration with the UN, TNC and local population to establish security and stability across Libya and to come good on pledges to unfreeze Libyan assets and lift sanctions as the NTC needs funds to rebuild the country and its economy.

On Thursday 1 September, the world community met Libya’s new leaders, for an international conference full of symbolism, called “Friends of Libya”. During this conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged the UN Security Council (with EU Member States Germany and Portugal as elected members 2011-2012) to decide quickly on deploying a civilian mission to stabilize Libya. Ki-Moon confirmed that the UN would now take the lead on assisting Libya’s new leadership with the agreement of world leaders. What role the EU might play in this remains to be seen.  Indeed, the EU was represented by President Jose Manuel Barroso, President Herman Van Rompuy and High Representative / Vice-President Catherine Ashton but they mainly stayed silent.

However, an assessment mission has been sent to Libya by Catherine Ashton[3], High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission. The team is led by Agostino Miozzo, the Managing Director for Crisis Response in the EEAS. Ashton noted that, the aim of the mission is to prepare the opening of an EU delegation in Tripoli and to develop contacts with members of the NTC. But the EU is not taking the lead. Indeed, Ashton added: “We are there to support the people of Libya during the period of transition. The European Union is ready to provide assistance under the leadership of the United Nations and the NTC”.[4]

On Friday 2 September, a day after world powers met in Paris, the formal lifting of the sanctions freed up billions of dollars to help Libya’s new rulers rebuild the nation after 42 years of Qaddafi ‘s rule and six months of civil war. On the same day, EU foreign ministers met in Poland to discuss how to help to stabilise Libya after the conflict. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski (Poland currently has the EU Presidency) confirmed that the UN would have a leading role in helping to demilitarise Libya and ensure safety after the conflict ends, but Europe has capabilities in this area. However he noted that “The way the EU will assist to Libya depends firstly on what the Libyan authorities want”.[5]

Bernardino León, the newly appointed EU Special Representative for the Southern Mediterranean Region, set out his views on the current situation in the region, however, they seem to indicate a lack of communication between the European institutions and a lack of sync with the international framework. For example, he said; “Europe has to take the lead in Libya and Europe is aware that the international community is expecting this”.[6] However the international community is not expecting this, in fact, Ki-Moon said a day later that the UN would now take the lead on assisting Libya’s new leadership with the agreement of world leaders. The EU, for many reasons, mainly politics, never took the lead in responding to the Libyan crisis over the past 8 months and was not able to establish a consensus on action (the proposed EUFOR mission perhaps an exception – see our analysis here http://www.isis-europe.org/pdf/2011_artrel_624_isis-briefing-note-2011-1-libya.pdf  – but it was never operational). EU Member States that did partake in a response (Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden, UK) were under the leadership of NATO. Interestingly, elected UNSC members – EU Member States Germany and Portugal – did not partake in the NATO operation.

The main challenge in Libya will be to build institutions involving civil society and gender equity. Some experts say that a new EU Security Sector Reform (SSR) mission concentrating on assisting in particular development of the police sector should take place in Libya. There have already been internal talks in Brussels at the end of August in regards to discussion of planning for such a mission and SSR experts have already been identified. Let’s just hope that people in the EU actions will take with them lessons from previous EU SSR missions and do a comprehensive involvement of what the locals need and want.


[1] “Preparing for life after Qaddafi”,  European Voice, 1 September 2011.

[3] The mission arrived in Tripoli on Thursday 1st of September.

[5] EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Sopot, Poland

[6] Closed session of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee 31 August 2011.

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This entry was posted on 06/09/2011 by in Opinions and tagged , , , .

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