Libya: the international community must act

(In collaboration with Termometro Politico)

More than four years after the beginning of the popular uprisings that have formed the Libyan seed of the Arab Spring, Libya increasingly looks like a failed state, as it is divided into entities fighting each other, the site of terrorist infiltration of jihadist mold and a hub for the smuggling of migrants to Europe.

As the international community tries to mediate between the parties involved, especially repulsing the threat represented by the Islamic State, the last tragic shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea raises again the humanitarian issue off the coasts of the European Union.

The UN mediation

In the Libyan chaos the most part of the international community officially recognizes the government of Tobruk, but it has limited control of the territory. Therefore, its say is limited at the negotiating table. Last week in Algiers, and then in Morocco, meetings between the parties took place in order to find a way to ceasefire and to restore the national unity. These meetings took place under the mediation of the United Nations represented by the head of the UN mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon. Leon stressed that the success of the negotiations will depend on the ability to involve as many voices as possible and has displayed confidence, claiming to have a text to ensure the agreement of the several parties involved.

The foreign ministers of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, United Kingdom and the US State Secretary issued a joint statement wishing for an unconditional ceasefire; the Italian Foreign Minister Gentiloni stressed the increased attention of the G7 on the Libyan issue. Gentiloni also confirmed that Italy, in particular, has the task of sensitizing the international community and especially the G7 countries on the consequences of a lasting instability in Libya.

How to fight IS

The absence of international troops on Libyan territory has contributed to the fragmentation of the country and to the creation of a scenario that no one wished at the beginning of the crisis. Currently, there is not even full unity in the global community regarding what should be done for Libya. Some countries, like France, do not completely exclude the possibility of a territorial division of the country. Whereas Italy is certainly interested to defend a national unity that would avoid further tensions on its doorstep.

The most serious threat to the European security seems to be represented by IS, whose propaganda, amplified by the Western media, just last week was enriched by a video that showed the beheading of 28 Ethiopian Christians in Cyrenaica. The Libyan issue is essentially strategic. However, the diversity of interests among the international actors involved is likely to delay a decision and further aggravate the state of affairs.

In this context, the UN’s objective appears to be an attempt to rebuild the national unity and then defeat the Islamic State on the field. Nonetheless, the solution proposed at the beginning by Egypt could come back into vogue in the event of a failure of the negotiations. This means that the support for the government of Tobruk in the civil war to fight IS consists initially to renounce to form an inclusive government.

The humanitarian issue

It is difficult to state firmly the exact proportions of what happened April 19 off the coasts of Libya. What is certain is that the instability in Libya represents a serious humanitarian emergency. The institutional crisis on the Mediterranean coasts generates an immense flow of migrants that the European Union, and Italy above all, are called upon to manage.

Solving the Libyan problems would probably put an end to the ongoing tragedies that for years are transforming the Mediterranean Sea into a sea of death, but there are tools that can temporarily stem the situation. The Triton operation is only partially working, and the reduction of funds in the transition from what was the operation Mare Nostrum to the current one is maybe the major guilty party for what is occurring. Once again, there is a lack of vision of some members of the Union. This fact is undermining the communitarian project. The prevalence of the intergovernmental method in the EU political decisions inevitably entails the prevalence of particular interests. Italy, natural harbour in the Mediterranean Sea, is virtually alone in the sea surveillance and in managing aid to the boats that come from Africa, mainly from Libya.

One wonders, at this point, if it’s not the case of setting up humanitarian corridors under the aegis of the United Nations with the task of granting migrants a safe transit to Europe. Likely these corridors would permit the monitoring of the ports of departure and would avoid the infiltration of criminal organizations that continue to exploit on these ‘journeys of hope’.

Libya at the moment is like a bacillus that can infect Europe and blindfolding oneself is not the solution to the problem. The Libyans and the Europeans are still waiting for politics to do something.


Francesco Angelone

Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More