After the fall of Gaddafi, Libya entered into a difficult transition process characterised by the disintegration of the country. Libya is divided between different factions and militias which are competing for power. There are currently two parliaments - one in Tobruk and one in Tripoli. The UN-led facilitated negotiations raised the hope of bringing peace but are currently stalled and the window of opportunity seems to be closing.
The failure of the state and the absence of sovereignty over the territory has led to many problems including the expansion of terrorism. ISIS controls some areas close to oil facilities near Sirte, Benghazi, Sabratad Ra’s Ajdid. Trafficking of all kinds is prospering and refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants in particular fall prey to smugglers who send them in flimsy boats to the European coast or worse, to the abyss of the Mediterranean sea.
A multilayer conflict between local minorities
Besides the division between the East and the West, the Libyan conflict is a multilayer conflict with lasting local disputes among minorities. Many of these local conflicts, especially in the South, are linked to the lack of communication channels between the minorities, as the Tebu, Tuareg and Amazigh representatives underlined at the conference ‘A European strategy for the stabilisation of Libya: Supporting the inclusion of local actors’, which I hosted this week in Brussels.
The representatives of the Libyan ethnic minorities added bitterly that the international community usually watches the oil-rich Eastern and Western parts of Libya but rarely pays attention to the South of the country. However, the South of the country and its population are also key players in the stabilisation of the country.
This lack of government, the failed state, including the absence of local administration, and the general instability in the country affects us all, in Europe, in Africa and in the Mediterranean region. Libya has always been key to the stability of the Sahel region, and the Sahel region is key to the management of many security threats both in Europe and in Africa. Today, the total absence of border control in Libya is a godsend for smugglers and the absence of state authority is the oxygen of terrorist groups, to quote one of the panellists.
Supporting reconstruction at local level
While continuing to support the UN-led peace process, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, said the EU must make sure that the local level is fully taken into account, in particular the inclusion of ethnic minorities from the South. Inclusiveness of the peace process is a key element towards lasting peace. Through different policy tools, the EU can support the reconstruction of the Libyan state at local level.
Moreover, the country has great potential for development because of oil, solar energy and tourism for example. At the same time, the poor conditions of infrastructure and the lack of strategies for creating SMEs make people flee South Libya.
The international community has a duty to fully support Libya. The EU must be fully committed to the reconstruction and recovery efforts that will be necessary as soon as there is a peaceful solution at national level, and must be ready as well to mobilise the international community in this direction. The economic collapse of the country can be prevented by support on a great scale.
Education is another key factor for the stabilisation of Libya considering the huge human potential, in particular of the youth who represent more than 60% of the population.
Of paramount importance is the securisation of the borders. The EPP Group has strongly supported the EUNAVFOR MED operation Sophia in its efforts to tackle the migrant crisis and the smugglers. The operation also includes the training of Libyan coast guards which is a very positive step. We must also consider assistance to protect and control land borders.
Today we must work hard, not for the Libyans but rather with all of the Libyans, which also means with the Southern minorities. They have a strategic role and their participation in the peace process is not only a matter of principle but a pragmatic solution too.