Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

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."

Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army

Angela Merkel's much-anticipated speech to the European Parliament was brief and to the point. Her message: Europe is alone in the world, the EU should be more united on defence, but not on the economy.

Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Italy would be committing economic "suicide" if it fell in line with EU rules, its deputy leader has said, in a sign that Rome has little intention of bowing to pressure ahead of Tuesday's budget deadline.

EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure

EU ministers' discussion on how to address rule of law issues in Poland and Hungary gets stuck on procedural issues, while Viktor Orban's government claims it is a target of the Brussels elite because of its anti-migration stance.

EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press

Romania's data protection authority has threatened a €20m fine against reporters investigating high-level corruption. The European Commission has since issued a warning, telling Romanian authorities to give press exemptions when it comes to privacy rights.

News in Brief

  1. Draft Brexit deal on London cabinet agenda on Wednesday
  2. EU proposes no visa for UK citizens after Brexit
  3. EU parliament 'deeply concerned' on Romania judiciary
  4. Macedonia's ex-PM flees to Hungary, seeks asylum
  5. Cyprus opens first new border crossings in eight years
  6. Putin's Austrian dance partner cancels Moscow visit
  7. Political deadlock over Sweden Democrat influence
  8. Court: Catalan referendum organisers must repay costs

Opinion

EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name

Sergei Magnitsky gave his life to fighting corruption. The least we can do is to honour his sacrifice in the name of the legislation that his heroism inspired.

Opinion

All Quiet on the Eastern Front?

Russia is trying to foment a clash between Hungary and Ukraine over the territory of Zakarpattia in a potential crisis overlooked by EU leaders.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  2. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  3. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure
  4. EU unable to fully trace €1bn spent on refugees in Turkey
  5. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency
  6. EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press
  7. EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name
  8. Fear of nationalist surge marks European memorials

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us