Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Nurses were freed after French arms deal, Gadhafi son says

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's son has said that an armaments deal between France and Tripoli was the main reason for the release last month of six medics held in Libya.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi told French daily Le Monde on Wednesday that the brokered deal included the sale of French Milan anti-tank missiles as well as joint Franco-Libyan manufacture of military equipment.

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

  • Benghazi - EU countries agreed to provide assistance to help upgrade a hospital in Benghazi, Libya's second city (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

He said he thought the tank deal would be worth "hundreds of millions of euros" before adding "Did you know it is the first armaments deal by a western country with Libya?"

French leader Nicolas Sarkozy denied there was any such agreement when asked by reporters on Wednesday.

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi's claims are set to prompt much further investigation into the arrangement brokered by the EU that saw the release on 24 July of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor.

The release took place following intense diplomatic efforts by several actors including EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner as well as Mr Sarkozy's wife Cecilia who accompanied the commissioner on a Lybia trip.

The six had been detained in Libya for over eight years accused by the authorities of infecting children with the AIDS virus - a charge they always denied.

The Le Monde interview is already causing a political storm in France.

At the time of the nurses' release, there were few details on what exactly Paris and Tripoli had agreed.

More generally, EU countries had agreed to provide medical assistance for the children and to help upgrade a hospital in Benghazi, Libya's second city and the town where the infections first appeared in the 1990s.

The EU also agreed to improve its ties with Libya and build a partnership that would include free trade.

Germany criticises

The way Paris handled negotiations with Tripoli has given rise to some criticism in other parts of Europe. Germany has said it should have been kept more informed by France.

German newspaper Handelsblatt suggests that Berlin was at first not even consulted on the anti-tank missiles exchange although the consortium that builds them is a Franco-German-run outfit.

"Concerning the French offers to Libya, I would certainly have rather wanted that the European partners had been keep informed and been part of the process," foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a separate interview with the newspaper

"I think that the French side today sees that the sequence of events could have been better chosen," he said, adding that Paris was now making up for this.

For Libya's part, the release of the medics was seen as the last step in bringing the country in from the international cold.

It had international pariah status for its involvement in the blowing up of an aeroplane over Scotland in 1988 killing 270 people.

In 2003, the UN sanctions lifted sanctions against the country while the following year, the EU decided to lift its arms embargo.

However, a de facto embargo continued, according to Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, mainly due to the reluctance of Germany to sell arms to the country.

But with France "[Tripoli] has been in negotiations for a long time. We asked Sarkozy to accelerate things. Now that the medics' case has been dealt with, a golden opportunity has arisen."

Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, who heads the Gadhafi International Foundation for Charity Associations, also noted – with 'visible satisfaction', according to Le Monde – that representatives from defence companies Thales and Sagem were currently in Libya for talks.

EU faces moment of truth at midnight on Sunday

Voters in the world's second-biggest election, the European Parliament ballot, will know before midnight on Sunday to what extent a foretold far-right surge has come to be.

Key details on how Europeans will vote

It's one of the biggest democratic exercises in the world with over 400 million eligible voters. National rules apply, and national parties run, but the stakes are at European level.

Opinion

Voter turnout will decide Europe's fate

European voter turnout is in deep crisis. Since the early 2000s, the share of voters in national elections has fallen to 66 percent on average, which means that the birthplace of democracy now ranks below average globally.

Happy young Finns don't vote in EU elections

In Finland, only 10 percent of 18-24-year-olds voted at the previous EU elections in 2014. General satisfaction with the status quo of the EU membership could explain why youngsters do not feel like they need to vote.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Happy young Finns don't vote in EU elections

In Finland, only 10 percent of 18-24-year-olds voted at the previous EU elections in 2014. General satisfaction with the status quo of the EU membership could explain why youngsters do not feel like they need to vote.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  3. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  8. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  9. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  10. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  11. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us