30th Jan 2023

EU keen to build post-Gaddafi Libya

  • Cameron (l) and Sarkozy: the two men led calls for the special summit and spelled out their ideas in a joint letter on Thursday (Photo: The Prime Minister's Office)

EU leaders will in a joint declaration on Friday (11 March) tell Gaddafi that he must step down and pledge to help build a new post-war Libya.

The latest draft of the declaration, seen by EUobserver, voices solidarity with victims of violence and says: "Colonel Gaddafi must relinquish power immediately." It adds: "The EU stands ready to engage with the Libyan authorities in order to help Libya build a constitutional state and develop the rule of law."

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UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in a joint letter to European Council head Herman Van Rompuy on Thursday added that Colonel Gaddafi should end up in a jail cell in the Hague.

"These acts may amount to crimes against humanity ... We support the investigation announced by the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, and the message this sends that the regime will be held to account for its actions," they said.

The letter is softer than separate French statements on Thursday on how to handle anti-Gaddafi rebels and on military intervention.

"We should send the clear political signal that we consider the [rebel] Council to be valid political interlocutors," it notes. "We support continued planning to be ready to provide support for all possible contingencies as the situation evolves on the basis of demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and firm regional support."

The Elysee on Thursday upset EU allies by unilaterally recognising the rebel council as the legitimate government of Libya and by saying Nato jets should hit three Gaddafi military targets.

The Elysee statements were made by spokesmen rather than by President Sarkozy himself, however. The controversy means Mr Sarkozy is likely to take centre stage at the Friday summit, but the ambiguity leaves room for him to row back on the unpopular ideas.

Friday's summit will also look at a recent European Commission proposal on how to overhaul EU policy on north Africa. But the Franco-British letter says: "Today's priority is to cope with the political and security situation."

Southern EU states will meanwhile seek assurances the bloc will help them deal with the flow of migrants generated by the upheaval.

Italy in a diplomatic note handed round at a foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels on Thursday suggested that an EU and Nato naval blockade of Libyan ports could "be useful also for monitoring [the movement of] human beings across the Mediterranean Sea."

New sanctions out

In other developments, the EU on Friday morning published a list of top-up financial sanctions on Libya.

The move adds the multi-billion Libyan Investment Authority, the Central Bank of Libya, the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio, the Libyan Foreign Bank, the Libyan Housing and Infrastructure Board and one Mustafa Zarti, an Austrian citizen in charge of handling Gaddafi money, to a previous list of 26 people under an asset freeze.

Fabrice Marchisio, a lawyer who specialises in asset tracing for the Paris-based firm Cotty Vivant Marchisio & Lauzeral, warned EUobserver that press should not take at face value government pledges to freeze money.

"The legal texts which these decisions are based on have incredibly wide parameters. The international community imposed an asset freeze on Ferdinand Marcos [a former dictator in the Philippines], but more than 20 years later we have recovered about four percent of his money. And he had a lot less money than Gaddafi," Mr Marchisio said.

With news breaking on Friday about a tsunami in northeast Japan, an EU diplomat noted: "EU leaders will have the chance to voice concern for victims and to offer assistance if needed."

He added that the disaster will not be a high priority, however: "Japan is not an EU member yet."

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