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4th Dec 2021

Libyan revolutionary calls for EU recognition, military assistance

  • Gebril (c) at the Liberal group meeting on Tuesday (Photo: ALDE)

An anti-Gaddafi opposition leader has in Strasbourg called for the EU to recognise the legitimacy of the country's Provisional Transitional National Council (PTNC) and for limited military assistance.

Mahmud Gebril, a former junior minister in the Gaddafi regime who defected to the opposition and helped set up the PTNC in Libya's second city of Benghazi, put forward his request at a meeting of the Liberal group in the EU parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday (8 March) evening.

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Mr Gebril also asked for the EU and US to impose a no-fly zone, to help jam Gaddafi military communications and to send emergency medical and food supplies through seaports in the opposition-held east of the country. He warned that putting foreign soldiers on the ground would play into the hands of Gaddafi's anti-West propaganda, however.

"You should paralyse [Gaddafi's] power to kill. But there should be no direct military intervention on Libyan soil. You should empower the Libyan people to continue their struggle ... but Libyan history should be written by Libyan hands," the PTNC envoy said.

Mr Gebril added that the PTNC's new draft constitution for Libya will give a major role to young people. He also noted that seven out of Libya's 10 major cities are now under opposition control and said that "thousands" have been killed.

"They understand that its time for a new generation to take over, that the revolution was led by the youth of Libya and that they are the future of the country," Liberal group spokesman Neil Corlett said.

The Liberal group helped Mr Gebril to get to Strasbourg out of Benghazi via Cairo using contacts put in place by Louis Michel, a Belgian liberal MEP who worked in Africa as EU development commissioner over the past five years. It has also arranged for Ali al-Essawi, Gaddafi's former ambassador to India, to come to Strasbourg on Wednesday.

The two men will sit in on a plenary debate on Wednesday morning and then go to Paris to meet French foreign minister Alain Juppe. They will be in Brussels on Thursday to make contacts on the margins of a snap foreign ministers' meeting.

An EU source said that Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Malta and EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton were annoyed by the Liberal initiative. "It's premature. How do we know these people have any legitimacy?" the contact said. Ms Ashton met with Mr Gebril in Strasbourg on Tuesday despite her misgivings.

Ms Ashton and the European Commission have drafted a 16-page proposal entitled A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean to be put to EU ministers on Thursday and to EU leaders at an emergency Libya summit on Friday.

The paper says that the €4 billion in EU money left in the pot for Maghreb and Middle East countries up to 2013 and a further €6 billion available in the form of European Investment Bank loans should in future be used to reward or punish countries on the basis of democratic standards.

It explains: "Those that go further and faster with reforms will be able to count on greater support from the EU. Support will be reallocated or refocused for those who stall or retrench on agreed reform plans." It adds: "These initiatives will not come at the expense of lending to other countries of operation in the eastern neighbourhood."

Other ideas include: EU help for new elections in Egypt and Tunisia; softer visa conditions for students and businessmen with a view to visa-free travel in the long term; EU farm aid to fight rising food prices; and "tools to allow the EU, in appropriate cases, to assist civil society organisations or individual citizens to circumvent arbitrary disruptions" of internet and mobile phone communications.

Unlike Mr Gebril, the paper makes little mention of young people. It also sets out the price to pay for EU support.

Target countries will be expected to offer "closer co-operation in the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and more joint work in international fora on issues of common interest." They should also "provide appropriate financial support for border management ... including through enhanced maritime surveillance; [and] the return of irregular migrants (return arrangements and readmission agreements)."

For their part, EU countries on Tuesday pinned down a list of four Libyan companies and one extra person to join a previous EU asset freeze on 26 members of the Gaddafi regime. EUobserver understands the companies include the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and the Libyan Central Bank.

Malta initially raised objections to the move but later backed down, with the new measures to enter into force on Friday.

"The sanctions must be ensured to properly target the listed individuals rather than ordinary people," a Maltese diplomat said. Libya has important business assets in Malta. Lafico, a Libyan company, part owns the Corinthia group of luxury hotels on the island.

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