Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Italy and Czech Republic back Gaddafi despite bloodbath

The EU is struggling to speak with one voice following a massive loss of life in Libya over the weekend and the regime's vow to fight protesters to the "to the last bullet. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has spoken of her "extreme concern," while Rome does not want to "disturb" strongman Moammar Gaddafi and Prague has warned of a "catastrophe" if he falls.

Late on Sunday (20 February), while sticking to the same script the EU has used throughout the wave of protests throughout the region of calling for 'restraint, dialogue and reform', Ms Ashton condemned the crackdown which, according to Human Rights Watch has claimed the lives of 233 pro-democracy demonstrators over the past five days.

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

  • Libyan opposition flag. Reports say authorities mowed down demonstrators with machine gunfire while snipers from rooftops picked off individuals (Photo: mshamma)

Reports on the ground say authorities mowed down demonstrators with machine gunfire while snipers from rooftops picked off individuals, but details are hard to come by after the government blocked access to foreign journalists and shut down the internet.

"The European Union is extremely concerned about the events unfolding in Libya and the reported deaths of a very high number of demonstrators," she said in a statement as EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss the situation in north Africa and the Middle East.

"The EU urges the authorities to exercise restraint and calm and to immediately refrain from further use of violence against peaceful demonstrators," continued Ms Ashton. "The legitimate aspirations and demands of the people for reform must be addressed through open and meaningful Libya-led dialogue."

Hungary, which currently holds the bloc's six-month rotating presidency, told the EU ministers that it received a warning from Tripoli that Libya would end co-operation on blocking irregular immigration into the EU if Brussels did not side with Gaddafi.

Ms Ashton for her part dismissed Libya's threat.

"We have heard threats, we hear people saying you should do this, you should do that, but in the end the EU will do what is right," she said.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron described Tripoli's actions as "unacceptable, counter-productive and wrong." His foreign secretary, William Hague, encouraged other countries to denounce the regime. "The United Kingdom condemns what the Libyan government has been doing ... and we look to other countries to do the same," he said.

Germany's EU affairs minister Werner Hoyer described his country's "indignation" at developments: "We are watching with great concern and indignation the violence used by state authorities in Libya and in other states."

France and Luxembourg followed suit, with French EU affairs minister Laurence Waquiez describing the repression as "completely unacceptable" and Luxembourg's foreign minister Jean Asselborn saying he is "not afraid" of "a dictator who shoots at his own people".

On the other side of the EU divide, Italy is horrified at the possible loss of a close ally. Foreign minister and ex-EU-commissioner Franco Frattini is trying to convince other European states that Mr Gaddafi has promised constitutional reforms and that the bloc should allow him to make good. "Italy as you know is the closest neighbour of both Tunisia and Libya so we are extremely concerned about the repercussions on the migratory situation in the southern Mediterranean," Mr Frattini told reporters on Sunday.

The previous day, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he did not want to "disturb" his long-time friend with appeals for restraint. "We are worried about everything happening there, in all the area," he told reporters. "I haven't yet heard from Gaddafi. The situation is evolving and so I don't feel I should disturb anyone."

On Sunday, Mr Frattini spoke about Gaddafi's reform promises with US secretary of state Hilary Clinton.

He raised with her the "possibility of a reform of the constitution that could be taken up soon by the People's Congress," a foreign ministry statement said. Both Ms Clinton and Mr Frattini agreed on the importance "in this delicate phase, of offering signs of political solidarity," the statement added.

The Czech Repblic has also warned against speaking out in favour of human rights in Libya.

Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the EU should not "get involved too much" and that high-minded EU appeals would only serve to "prove our own importance".

"If Gaddafi falls, then there will be bigger catastrophes in the world," he told journalists in the EU capital on Sunday. "It's no use for anyone if we intervene there loudly, just to prove our own importance."

Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem

Romania will move its embassy to Jerusalem, its prime minister has said, shattering the EU line on the Arab-Israeli conflict while the country holds the EU rotating presidency.

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

Opinion

Russia and money laundering in Europe

After Danske Bank, both the US and the EU need to abandon the principle in bank regulation that it is all right to be a crook as long as you are big.

Agenda

Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

The UK parliament will likely hold a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, determining the UK's departure from the bloc. In the meantime, the controversial copyright reform will be on the EU parliament's agenda.

News in Brief

  1. May admits 'not sufficient support' for third Brexit vote
  2. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'
  3. May 'effectively out of power', says Scottish leader
  4. May under pressure to resign over Brexit endgame
  5. Million march against Brexit, five million sign petition
  6. Italy first G7 country to sign China Belt and Road deal
  7. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  8. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks

Magazine

The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted

It is a divisive 'Brussels bubble' debate: whether to give the European Parliament more of a say on who becomes the next European Commission president. But the issue goes right to the heart of European integration.

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. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  2. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  3. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  4. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  5. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  6. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  7. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  8. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us