11th Dec 2019

EU considering special summit on Libya

  • Van Rompuy: the final decision belongs to the former Belgian PM (Photo: Council of the European Union)

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy is holding talks with member states on a French idea to hold an extraordinary EU summit about Libya and north Africa in Brussels on Thursday (3 March) or Friday.

Mr Van Rompuy's spokesman, Dirk De Backer told EUobserver on Monday that the summit proposal is "under discussion."

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A spokesman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Darren Ennis, said "[she] would support the idea and it is her view that if such a summit were to happen, it should happen sooner rather than later."

EU diplomatic sources said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy floated the idea at the weekend and that Italy, Spain and the UK are on board. Germany is opposed to the move, while many smaller EU countries, such as Sweden, are not being kept in the loop.

An EU official noted it takes at least three days to organise such an event and that other EU summits are already planned for 11 and 24 March. EU leaders from the centre-right and centre-left political families have also tabled pre-summit summits on economic governance in Helsinki and Athens on Friday.

"Who wants another summit? What would this [the Libya event] be about anyway?" an EU diplomat said.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, Mr Van Rompuy is supposed to be in charge of calling special summits and Ms Ashton is supposed to lead the way on EU foreign policy. The two spokesmen underlined that if the summit takes place, it would not be a case of France calling the shots.

"The final decision is to be taken by the president," Mr De Backer said. "The organisation of EU summits is of course a matter for President Van Rompuy," Mr Ennis noted.

The summit discussion comes amid an EU decision on Monday to top up UN sanctions against the Gaddafi regime.

The UN security council on Saturday imposed a travel ban on Moammar Gaddafi and 15 members of his family and top cadre. It also imposed an asset freeze on the colonel and five associates.

The EU on Monday added 10 more names to the travel ban and 20 to the asset freeze. The list of extra EU names is to be made public later in the week.

The joint EU-UN names include seven of Gaddafi's sons, his daughter, his top bodyguard, his defence minister and his head of military intelligence.

As is normal with EU sanctions, the people on the travel ban will still be able to enter the Union for urgent medical treatment or if "an exemption would further the objectives of peace and national reconciliation."

In an interesting detail - given that Gaddafi's fortune is being counted in the order of tens of billions of euros - the asset freeze decision "shall not apply to the addition to frozen accounts of ... interest or other earnings due on those accounts."

It is unclear how the sanctions could affect EU companies, such as Italy's Juventus football club or UniCredit bank, in which Libya holds large stakes.

The UN and EU sanctions also include a ban on sales and shipments of arms and non-lethal riot-control equipment to Libya.

Swedish arms-control NGO Sipri on Monday published an alert saying that there have been "suspicious" flights in and out of Libya in the build-up to the eruption of violence on 15 February.

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