EU says ready to support post-Gaddafi Libya

Muammar Gaddafi Reuters_Picnik.jpg

European Union leaders yesterday (20 October) hailed reports of Muammar Gaddafi's death, saying it marked "the end of an era of despotism and repression". Up to €85 million is available for reconstruction and stabilisation needs, the European Commission indicated.

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, were among the first in the international community to react yesterday (20 October) to Muammar Gaddafi's death.

"The reported death of Muammar Gaddafi marks the end of an era of despotism and repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long," the two leaders said in a joint statement issued around 15.30 Brussels time when reports about Gaddafi's death were not yet confirmed.

"Today Libya can turn a page in its history and embrace a new democratic future," they added, calling the National Transitional Council to "pursue a broad based reconciliation process which reaches out to all Libyans and enables a democratic, peaceful and transparent transition in the country."

In Brussels, NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, called on reconciliation among Libyans and urged the National Transitional Council "to prevent any reprisals against civilians and to show restraint in dealing with defeated pro-Qadhafi forces."   

Libyan people could now "truly decide on their own future," Rasmussen said by organising the country's first free elections in 42 years.

The end of NATO's mission in Libya has "has now moved much closer," Rasmussen added, saying: "We will terminate our mission in coordination with the United Nations and the National Transitional Council."

EU funding available

The EU's focus will now turn to the democratic transition in Libya and the stabilisation of the country after more than six months of conflict.

Up to €25 million is already available for immediate stabilisation needs, the Commission indicated, saying this includes "short-term technical assistance to the NTC to build up state institutions".

And more money is at hand in the longer term when the new Libyan authorities are in place, Brussels indicated, with up to €60 million available until 2013 for Libya. 

"The European Commission is ready to refocus available 2011-2013 funding foreseen for Libya of €60 million on the needs of the new Libyan authorities in areas such as democratisation and civil society, public administration capacity building and social and economic development."

"This longer-term support programme will be prepared together with the new Libyan authorities," the Commission added.

Getting the economy back on its feet

Meanwhile, European companies have lined up to secure investments in Libya since Muammar Gaddafi's fall in August, with Italian oil giant Eni and France's Total at the forefront of attempts to restore exploitation of oil resources in the country's east.

"Libya is a resource-rich country," the Commission said, suggesting international financial support will not be needed for long.

As part of efforts to rebuild the economy, the EU has started to lift restrictions on some 28 economic entities – ports mainly – which, previously under the control of the regime, were subject to sanctions. "This will contribute to the resumption of normal economic activity," the Commission said.

"Our goal is to provide resources to the interim government and the Libyan people and help to make the economy function again," the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said back in September.

At a summit in Paris on 1 September, Western powers said Gaddafi was still a threat, but handed the NTC $15 billion (€10.5 billion) of his foreign assets to start the job of rebuilding.

Stratfor, a US intelligence website providing analysis of geopolitical events, warned that Gaddafi's death would bring "an era of uncertainty in Libya" which holds the potential for "prolonged instability".

The National Transitional Council (NTC) will now be pressured to follow through on its pledge to push forward the process of forming a transitional government, Strafor says.

But it says that "an increasing number of Libyans have begun to openly challenge the authority of NTC leaders in recent weeks, angry at the slow pace of transition since Gadhafi was stripped of power."

"If the rebels that once identified as part of the NTC begin fighting one another for power, it will bear significant consequences for Libya," Stratfor warns, saying that forming a government that satisfies everyone will be "impossible".

"Such a fight would have an impact abroad as well, especially in two ways: its effect on crude oil production and its negative effect on regional security."

Paris and London took the lead in the international community's efforts to topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, accused of crimes against humanity in its repression of the Libyan insurrection, which started in February.

On 17 March, the UN Security Council voted to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and to provide help for Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow Gaddafi. The no-fly zone was enforced by NATO, which supported the Libyan insurrection with a bombing campaign.

In March, a number of EU countries decided to freeze Libya's assets. The EU followed up later on, deciding to freeze the assets of 28 Libyan entities – mainly ports – and an oil embargo in an effort to strangle Gaddafi's regime.

These sanctions were lifted in late August, when the rebels seized control of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

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