As Libya languished in post-revolutionary disorder, the EU provided little support in 2012 except by making preparations for a mission to support border-security management.
For much of 2012, Libya seemed to languish in post-revolutionary disorder. While elections in July went smoothly (and reassured some nervous onlookers by producing a non-Islamist majority), it was not until November that a functioning government took office. The killing of the US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens during an attack by a jihadist militia in Benghazi on 11 September highlighted the security problems in the country, in which many militias continued to operate outside central control. Nevertheless, by the end of the year, there was some hope that the new prime minister could get a grip on the country’s halting transition.
After the intense involvement of several European countries in the military intervention in Libya in 2011, European attention seemed to shift away from Libya this year. Some southern EU member states continued to follow events in the country closely. In particular, Italy remained focused on Libya and Prime Minister Mario Monti led an official visit in January. But across the EU as a whole, there was a sense that much of the urgency had gone out of policymaking towards Libya. While an EU delegation was opened in November 2011, it was only in the early autumn of 2012 that a critical mass of staffing was achieved.
Member states supported a variety of training and civil-society initiatives during the year, but the EU’s main focus was on helping Libya manage the security of its borders. Progress was slow: a needs-assessment mission was dispatched in March; its report was considered by foreign ministers in December; this laid the groundwork for a possible CSDP mission in 2013. The administrative weakness of the Libyan state clearly made it a difficult partner, but Europeans might have achieved more if they had attached greater resources and energy to pushing forward with their core priority of constructing a stable state governed by the rule of law.
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