EU bins security contract, annoys Libya
The EU foreign service has cancelled a €10 million contract with British security firm G4S in a minor diplomatic dispute with Libya.
A spokeswoman for the European External Action Service (EEAS) told EUobserver on Tuesday (29 May) that the deal - for guarding its embassies in Benghazi and Tripoli for the next four years - is in the bin.
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For its part, the post-war authority in Libya, the National Transitional Council (NTC), said in a statement on Saturday that "this company [G4S] ... will not receive a licence to operate inside Libyan territory" and that its staff "will not obtain visas to enter or work in Libya."
Its harsh words came after the EEAS signed the contract back in April without first asking them for permission to bring in the armed guards.
The EU body at the time said it did not need a permit. But the NTC's ambassador to the EU said it did.
A G4S spokesman told this website: "We are disappointed that the Libyan authorities have not seen fit to give G4S the authority to offer security services in the country in time for us to support the EU delegation."
EUobserver understands that the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf, is also looking into the case.
Olaf declined to confirm or deny the information, citing house rules on confidentiality. But the G4S deal aroused suspicion among competitors that British officials in the EEAS gave preferential treatment to the British company.
Apart from annoying the NTC, the G4S deal ran counter to the EU's own tender specifications - EU tender documents had stipulated that the winner must show "evidence" that they have a Libyan permit "before signature of the specific contract."
At the same time, EU officials believe that information was leaked to press for financial gain.
The mess means that Hungarian-based security company Argus is likely to do the Libya job from 1 June onward instead.
Argus came second in the tender. It already has NTC permission and is already working for the EEAS in Libya under an interim agreement.
G4S is the largest private security firm in the world, with a turnover of €9.4 billion a year and 657,000 staff.
It currently does security for the EEAS, the European Commission and the EU Council buildings in Brussels.
It is also cultivating influence in EU diplomatic circles - in January, it hired the former British ambassador to Libya, Richard Northern, as an "advisor" tasked to "support business growth in Libya."
The Libya problem means the EU will come under extra scrutiny when it awards a new €50 million contract for Afghanistan security in coming months. Contracts for Jordan, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon and Sudan are also coming up for grabs.