Tag Archives: EU External Affairs Commissioner

WikiLeaks 2008 US Cable: Background Regarding EU-Libya Framework Agreement Negotiations

This cable provides the views of the US Embassy in Tripoli regarding the state of the EU-Libya Framework Agreement negotiations in July 2008.  It was written by the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, John Godfrey.  The cable is titled: “THE EU-LIBYA FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT: VENI, VISAS, VETO.”  The cable states that Libya views the EU Framework Agreement as “a ‘reward’ for Libya’s decision in July 2007 to release six [Bulgarian and Palestinian] health workers accused of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV/AIDS.”  The cable describes threats to veto the framework agreement by individual EU member states in an effort to secure bi-lateral concessions from Libya and describes Libya’s claim that the “draft language initialed by [EU] Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner ‘commits’ the EU …  to funding a ‘surveillance mechanism’ along Libya’s land and sea borders to combat illegal migration.”

Most of the cable’s text follows:

“(C)  Summary.  The Government of Libya (GOL) remains keenly interested in pursuing a European Union-Libya Framework Agreement and views a more formalized partnership with the European Union (EU) as a “reward” for Libya’s decision in July 2007 to release six foreign health workers accused of intentionally infecting over 400 Libyan children with HIV/AIDS. Certain EU members, unsure that a more formal cooperation mechanism would be beneficial and sensing Libya’s eagerness, have used the threat of a veto to push their bilateral agendas, particularly with respect to commercial and human rights issues.  One year after Libya and the EU agreed in principle to pursue an agreement, a sizeable perception gap exists between the two sides on the merits of a more formalized partnership.  Despite occasional differences with the EU, most recently over the French-backed Union for the Mediterranean proposal, the GOL will continue to seek an EU framework agreement, in large part because of Muammar al-Qadhafi’s desire to be taken seriously by European leaders. End summary.

BULGARIAN MEDICS CASE HAUNTS EUROPE

2.  (C)  Libya’s much-heralded decision in July 2007 to [release] six foreign health workers imprisoned since 1999 on charges of intentionally infecting children in Benghazi with the HIV/AIDS virus frames current discussions on an EU-Libya Framework Agreement.  Widely seen by Europeans in Libya as a successful alignment of European and Libyan interests, the denoument of the Bulgarian medics case – particularly their immediate pardon upon their arrival in Bulgaria – remains a lasting embarrassment for key elements of the Libyan regime.  The GOL, preoccupied with avoiding the public perception that it caved to foreign pressure to resolve the case, has trumpeted a putative EU framework agreement as a significant concession and a positive coup for Libyan diplomacy.  In an hours-long televised news conference just days after the medics left, Foreign Minister Abdulrahman Shalgham and Under Secretary for European Affairs Abdulati Obeidi boasted that a draft agreement, initialed by EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner during her July 2007 visit to Tripoli, would pave the way for easier access to Schengen visas for Libyan citizens and increased EU infrastructure investments in Libya. Ferrero-Waldner’s announcement in February 2008 that the EU Commission had submitted a recommendation to the Council of Ministers to grant a mandate to open negotiations with Libya stoked GOL hopes for rapid progress.

3.  (C)  French, Spanish, and German diplomats describe Libya’s primary objective in pursuing an EU framework agreement as reducing the mandatory waiting period for Schengen visas for Libyan nationals from the current 10 days to 48 hours.  …

4.  (C)  The July 2007 EU-Libya draft also lays out cooperation in the fields of human rights, health, and development.  U/S Obeidi informed French Ambassador Francois Gouyette in June 2008 that Libya agreed in principle to negotiate a human rights chapter within the framework agreement; however, Obeidi categorically refused to include discussions of individual human rights cases in the EU negotiations.  … In addition, the GOL has claimed that draft language initialed by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner “commits” the EU …  to funding a “surveillance mechanism” along Libya’s land and sea borders to combat illegal migration.

VENI, VIDI, VETO

5.  (C)  Certain EU members, sensing Libya’s eagerness to move ahead, have threatened to block a framework agreement as a means by which to secure bilateral concessions, chiefly on commercial and human rights issues.  Italian Economic and Commercial Counselor Domenico Bellantone said that Italy is prepared to veto any framework agreement unless Libya ends a series of discriminatory commercial practices that target Italian firms operating in Libya.  …  French and Greek diplomats in Tripoli have hinted that they may also dangle a veto threat to resolve commercial disputes.  The Netherlands have approached certain EU members about a possible veto over Libya’s outstanding private debt to Dutch firms. Danish Consul-General George Wallen recently told EU Ambassadors in Tripoli that Denmark would veto a framework agreement with Libya unless the GOL lifts bans on Danish imports and Danish participation in infrastructure projects in Libya (prompted by a Danish magazine’s re-publishing in February 2008 of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad).  Denmark also wants the GOL to release Jamal al-Hajj, a Danish-Libyan dual-national arrested on February 16, 2007 in connection with plans to hold a peaceful political demonstration.  Maltese diplomats have said Malta is considering a veto over dissatisfaction with Libya’s maritime patrols in its designated Search and Rescue (SAR) area and continuing concerns over the lack of cooperation by the GOL in efforts to stem the flow of irregular migrants from Libya to Europe.

6.  (C) European diplomats believe that apart from help in combating illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia through Libya to Europe, Europe has little to gain from a closer partnership with Tripoli.  In absence of a more formal agreement, some European countries have pursued bilateral cooperation that they privately assess as being more nimble and effective than broader cooperation under an EU framework agreement might be.  Italian diplomats characterized a recent donation of six vessels to Libya’s coast guard and an offer to train Libyan border security officials as Italy’s bilateral response to what they view as a lack of meaningful EU engagement on illegal migrant flows through Libya.  Greek DCM Ioannis Stamatekos lauded Italy’s move and said Greece may follow suit. Maltese Poloff Daniel Malina said that Malta, lacking resources to make a large equipment donation, hoped to keep the critical migration issue on the EU’s radar during Council deliberations over the Commission’s mandate to pursue the framework agreement.

DON’T RAIN ON MY CHARADE

7.  (C)  Twelve months have passed since Ferrero-Waldner initialed a draft memorandum on an EU-Libya framework agreement; however, a year of inaction does not appear to have dampened GOL perceptions that relations with Europe are on an up-swing. While senior European diplomats in Tripoli are quick to point out that formal negotiations with Libya on any kind of European-Libyan cooperation agreement have yet to even begin, many GOL officials speak of key Libyan negotiating positions, such as the 48-hour Schengen visa point, as if they’re already in place. …  A series of high-level European visits, most recently that of Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos, have helped attenuate the GOL’s disappointment over what it perceives as slow progress on the framework agreement and on implementing commitments made during al-Qadhafi’s visits to Spain and France in December 2007.

8. (C) Comment: Libya’s interest in a closer partnership with Europe seems sincere; however, the GOL’s foreign policy, particularly at the senior levels, remains somewhat fickle. Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi’s visit to Madrid and Paris last December sparked a surge of pro-European rhetoric in Tripoli – in one instance, Qadhafi threatened to pull Libyan investment from sub-Saharan Africa to redirect to his new European friends.  More recently, though, al-Qadhafi orchestrated a meeting of Arab Maghreb Union leaders in Tripoli to publicly disparage Sarkozy’s Union for the Mediterannean proposal (reftel).  Characterizing the proposed union as “insulting”, he claimed it would undermine Arab and African member states’ commitments to the Arab League and African Union, and told former British Prime Minister Tony Blair he was concerned that the proposal represented an effort by southern European states to create a North African bulwark against illegal migration from sub-Saharan Africa and to “further legitimize” Israel.  Despite such disagreements, Qadhafi’s interest in being taken seriously, particularly by his “friends Nicholas (Sarkozy) and Silvio (Berlusconi)”, will continue to drive the GOL’s keen interest in finalizing a framework agreement with the EU.  End comment.   GODFREY”

Click here or here for full cable.

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WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: Italian Ambassador to Libya questions sincerity of Libya’s commitment to combatting illegal migration

This US Department of State cable, released by WikiLeaks on 1 Feb 2011, was written by Gene Cretz, US Ambassador to Libya.  The cable is entitled “The Frogman Who Couldn’t Swim: A Cooperation Cautionary Tale.”  (The cable’s title refers to an incident where Libya sent a member of its Public Security organization who was unable to swim to Italy for training in underwater explosives detection and demolition.)

The cable was written on 17 February 2009 in the same month that the provisions of the Italy-Libya agreement relating to Italy’s maritime push-back practice took effect and three months before the first major interceptions and forcible returns of hundreds of migrants to Libya which occurred in May 2009.  If the US Ambassador’s reporting in the cable is accurate, it would suggest that Italy’s Ambassador to Libya at the time did not believe that Libya was about to begin cooperating with Italy on illegal migration.  Though the cable does point out that comments made by the Italian Ambassador “pre-dated the early February visit to Libya by Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, who signed an MOU to implement earlier agreements on counter-migration and counterterrorism cooperation.”

Excerpts from the Cable:

“ITALY ALARMED BY INCREASE IN NUMBER OF ILLEGAL MIGRANTS TRANSITING LIBYA

2. (C) At a recent meeting hosted by the U.K. Ambassador to discuss counterterrorism engagement efforts, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiani expressed profound frustration with difficulties Italy had encountered in trying to cooperate with the GOL on counterterrorism and combatting illegal migration (Italy views the two issues as being linked).  Italy was alarmed by the marked increase in the number of illegal migrants that had arrived in Italy – primarily on the island of Lampedusa – from Libya.  By way of example, he offered that 1,300 Tunisian illegal migrants traveled from Libya to Italy in 2007.  In 2008, 5,900 Tunisians made landfall in Italy after departing from Libya’s coast.  The number of migrants from Somalia – “a derelict state” – who had arrived in Italy increased from 5,110 in 2007 to 31,764 in 2008.  The number of Nigerians had increased threefold and featured a heavy contingent of prostitutes and narco-traffickers.

LIBYA DELAYING COOPERATION TO LEVERAGE EU FRAMEWORK NEGOTIATIONS?

3. (C) Noting that smuggling illegal migrants was highly profitable, that the GOL claimed to exercise tight control over travel within Libya, and that senior regime officials traditionally had a direct stake in highly lucrative enterprises (licit and otherwise), Trupiani said it was “implausible” that large numbers of illegal migrants had transited Libya without at least the tacit consent of GOL officials.  The substantial increase in the number of illegal migrants meant a corresponding increase in the amount of money involved.  He speculated that there could be a “logical nexus” between smuggling of illegal migrants, arms trafficking and movement of terrorists, and lamented that no one appeared to be holding the GOL accountable for its failure to more effectively address those inter-related problems.  Worse, the GOL appeared to be deliberately delaying engagement with Italy and other European partners to leverage negotiations for a Libya-EU Framework Agreement (EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner was in Tripoli February 9-10 for the latest round of negotiations).

***

6. (C) Trupiani was not optimistic that bilateral cooperation would improve in the near term. (Note: Our exchange with Trupiani pre-dated the early February visit to Libya by Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, who signed an MOU to implement earlier agreements on counter-migration and counterterrorism cooperation (further details septel).  End note.)  He cited lack of human capacity and rampant corruption and nepotism as limited factors….”

Click here or here for the full cable.

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