Friday

28th Jul 2017

French diplomacy rekindles Bulgaria's pain over captive nurses

  • The Bulgarian nurses were eventually released from Libya in 2007 (Photo: EUobserver)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's push to recognise Libyan rebels has caused anger in Bulgaria, with Sofia alleging that key members of the Libyan National Transitional Council were closely linked to the torture of six Bulgarian nurses held captive in the north African country during the last decade.

"I explained [to EU leaders] that representatives of this council in Benghazi are the people who tortured the Bulgarian medics for eight years and that this cost us nearly $60 million," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told journalists at a European Summit in Brussels on Friday (11 March).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV-contaminated blood, the Bulgarian nurses were eventually released in 2007. As part of the deal, Bulgaria waved $60 million in debt owed by Tripoli.

No formal investigation has ever been conducted, but last month Libya's former Justice Minister Mustafa Abudel-Jalil said the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was responsible for infecting the roughly 400 children.

Exactly which members of the transitional council Borisov was referring to remains unclear. The Bulgarian premier also likened the situation in Libya to the fall of Communism in his own country.

"You remember what happened in 1989-90, who took power in Bulgaria? The people from the [Communist] Politburo, the foreign minister and the military," he said.

Reports suggest Romanian President Traian Basescu also echoed doubts over the rebels' credentials during the EU leaders' discussion, causing an angry outburst from Sarkozy and leading German Chancellor Angela Merkel to call for calm.

Both Romania and Bulgaria are known to be unhappy with French opposition to them joining the Schengen visa-free travel zone at the current juncture.

Since violence erupted in Libya in February, EU countries have agonised over whether to recognise rebels groups, predominately situated in the east of the country. On Friday leaders said they would treat members of the temporary council as "political interlocutors".

France has gone further however, dispatching a diplomatic envoy to Benghazi on Thursday after French President Sarkozy met with two rebel representatives the same day.

Speaking to journalists after an extraordinary EU summit on the subject, Mr Sarkozy hit back at accusations his country was moving too fast.

"I don't think there is any country that has gone from dictatorship to perfect democracy. We can't say you've worked with Gaddafi therefore we won't talk to you. They are now risking their lives, they have shouldered their responsibilities."

Tensions over the kidnapped nurses are not new.

In 2007, former French first lady Cecilia Sarkozy flew to Libya to secure the release of the six nurses, but officials in Berlin and Brussels considered the move a PR stunt after weeks of careful negotiations. The event however was deemed a media coup for Nicolas Sarkozy

Column / Brexit Briefing

Corbyn re-opens Labour's single market wound

The Labour leader has put his Brexit cards on the table again but it stands to divide the party, which still has a strong pro-EU following.

Analysis

Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue

Fico convinced the EU commission chief to take action in the perceived problem of discriminatory food practices, even though the evidence for the phenomenon is anecdotal.

News in Brief

  1. EU citizens will need registration to enter UK in Brexit transition
  2. Italy weighs up sending navy into Libyan waters
  3. Swedish PM fights for survival amid IT scandal
  4. Poland's Kaczynski vows to continue judicial reform
  5. Werner Hoyer re-appointed as EU investment bank chief
  6. Spanish PM denies knowledge of party corruption
  7. France 'routinely' abuses migrants, says NGO
  8. Swedish government rocked by data scandal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  2. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  3. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  5. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  6. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  7. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  9. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  10. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  12. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug

Latest News

  1. Senate backs Russia sanctions, setting scene for EU clash
  2. France and Italy quarrel over shipyard and Libya
  3. Corbyn re-opens Labour's single market wound
  4. Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue
  5. EU court could dismiss national borders in cyberspace
  6. Confusion swirls round Macron's Libya 'hotspots'
  7. Insults fly after EU ultimatum to Poland
  8. UK requests EU migration study, 13 months after Brexit vote