A European agenda to support Libya’s transition

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Europe could do more to protect its interests in Libya. Three years after the revolution, the transition is lagging behind with deadlines for key steps including elections, a new constitution and national dialogue looming and unlikely to be met.

Analysis by ECFR’s Middle East and North Africa Policy Fellow, Mattia Toaldo, notes Libya’s transition has stalled amid widespread apathy for democratic institutions and political parties. Little progress has been made on security, democracy or economic recovery. He says fresh elections, the establishment of a national dialogue to build consensus and the drafting of a new constitution should all take place before the end of this year with the continuing help of international partners like UNSMIL, the EU, the G8 and the P3+3 countries.

The ECFR policy paper outlines five key steps Europe should take:

  • Sustain the political and justice infrastructure by assisting the judiciary, civil society and the media as well as elections and a constitutional referendum.
  • Support local government in providing urban services and encourage central government devolution of these responsibilities.
  • Help central government establish a politically neutral and professional gendarmerie alongside local power-sharing and security agreements.
  • Ensure greater transparency in the management of oil revenues and the development of a post-oil Libyan economy.
  • Improve the co-ordination of international support and intervention to react more rapidly to changing events in Libya.

However Toaldo notes the poor security situation has complicated the work of foreign nationals in Libya and the development of strong central government has been challenged by the activities of armed militias, ethnic minority groups and Salafi and Jihadi radicals.

Armed groups blockade oil production facilities with devastating effects on the economy while many Libyan citizens pay little or no tax. The marginalisation of former Gaddafi loyalists has led to political assassinations, the suppression of media and more than a million Libyans fleeing to neighbouring countries.

With reliance on Russian energy supplies now in question across Europe, the ECFR paper notes: “the EU cannot afford to have a failed state crucial to energy security and to stemming illegal trafficking 350 km south of Malta and Lampedusa”.

The analysis concludes that – while it is up to Libyans to choose their leaders and representatives - Europe’s ability to influence the transition in Libya is strong and should be used more effectively.

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