Tag Archives: EU-Libya Framework Agreement

Ashton in Tripoli – EU Ready to Resume Negotiations on Framework Agreement / Prepared to Immediately Fund Re-Activation of Suspended Migration Programmes

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton travelled to Tripoli on 12 November to open the new EU Delegation office (headed by James Moran) and to meet with Libyan NTC Chairman Mustafa Abdel-Jalil.

From an EU Press Release:  “…  The EU also stands ready to resume negotiations on a Framework Agreement which can serve as a basis for political, economic, social and cultural dialogue and cooperation with the new Libya, whenever the new authorities decide that is the right moment to do so. The same principle applies to the possibility of having Libya joining regional initiatives where the EU is involved….”

“…Beyond tackling the most pressing humanitarian needs, the EU is already preparing both immediate measures to support the stabilisation priorities of the National Transitional Council (NTC), as well as longer-term support programmes. It was agreed at the international conference in Paris on 2 September 2011 that the EU will conduct needs assessment for the following sectors: border management; strengthening civil society and women’s rights, and media/strategic communications, while the UN and the World Bank, with which the EU is working very closely, will lead assessments in other areas. In addition, the EU has already deployed experts in communications, civil society, border management and security, and procurement.   In addition to its humanitarian assistance, the European Commission can make up to €30 million available for immediate stabilisation needs, including through the re-activation of programmes in the field of migration that were suspended when conflict began….” [emphasis added]

Click here for full press release.

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Malmström: Commission Hopes Migration Talks With Libya Will Begin Soon

In response to a parliamentary question submitted by Italian MEP Fiorello Provera (EFD, Northern League) regarding the “control of migratory flows in the southern Mediterranean”, Commissioner Cecilia Malmström provided a written response on 25 October in which she stated that “[t]he Commission hopes [migration discussions] will start as soon as possible with the Libyan authorities.”

In his question, MEP Provera praised the Italy-Libya Friendship Agreement:  “In an example of successful migration control, Italy and Libya signed a friendship treaty in 2008, which included measures to put Libya in charge of its 2 000 km coastline to stem the flow of illegal migrants into the EU. The agreement had an enormous impact: in 2008, 40 000 migrants attempted to cross illegally into Italy, but according to The Economist, the number of migrants was reduced to 4 406 in 2010. However, following the popular uprising against Gaddafi forces at the start of 2011, 27 000 immigrants managed to cross from Libya into Europe.”

Full text of Ms Malmström’s written response:   “The Commission would like to underline that the discussions which were held on 4 October 2010 in Tripoli by the Members of the Commission responsible for Home Affairs and Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy took place in a context, and with interlocutors, which have profoundly changed.

Although the tentative list of common actions identified in October 2010 (1) may still represent a basis for future cooperation between the EU and Libya in the areas of migration, asylum, visa policy and border management, it is clear that the pattern and content of this future cooperation will have to be substantially revised on the basis of new discussions. The Commission hopes these will start as soon as possible with the Libyan authorities.

The revision of the cooperation with Libya, in any case, is necessary also to take into account several important changes which have taken place not only in Libya but also in the EU since the spring.

In particular, the European Council of 24 June 2011 which approved a new policy approach towards the Southern Mediterranean countries. This approach will be characterised by the launch of a Dialogue on Migration, Mobility and Security with these countries aimed at reinforcing cooperation and strengthening relations with Europe’s southern neighbours.

(1) ‘common actions aimed at preventing irregular migration, addressing more effectively its consequences and root causes, promoting the use of the regular channels of migration and mobility, avoiding further loss of migrants’ lives as well as to protecting their fundamental rights’.”

Click here for Question and here for Answer.

Click here for article. (EN)

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Malmström’s Response to Dagens Nyheter Editorial Regarding EU’s Past Negotiations with Libya

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström posted a response on her blog to yesterday’s editorial in Dagens Nyheter regarding the EU’s efforts to negotiate a migration agreement with the Gaddafi government last year.  Her response is in Swedish and I reproduce below a Google English translation (slightly tweaked by me using my non-existent Swedish skills).  Please rely on the original Swedish text for accuracy.

Google translation:

“Conflict between principles

As I write today in [Dagens Nyheter] in reply to yesterday’s main leader, the purpose of the trip to Libya in 2010 was, among other things to try to get permission for cooperation in regard to the some 1.5 million migrants who were there. UNHCR had at that time determined that about 9000 of these were refugees and in need of help.

The partnership also included earmarked funding for UNHCR and IOM’s activities in Libya. The agreement also included cooperation on border control and better conditions for migrants and asylum seekers. For the first time we had with wording in an agreement on human rights and the concept of asylum, which was in the Libyan law.

Together with UNHCR and IOM, we tried from the EU side to find a means to protect the most vulnerable. Because of reluctance by the Libyan government to agree to our demands we made limited progress and shortly afterwards the civil war broke out.

It can later be viewed credulously [incredulously?] to believe that it would succeed, but the political situation that appeared at the time was the reality that we had to relate to in order to help these people. We can not ignore the realities, but must do whatever we can to help people who suffer abuse and unfair treatment. It is painful that sometimes this means we have to make exceptions to the principle of not negotiating with totalitarian states, but when there are no alternatives, the principle of humanity must be greatest.”

Original text:

“Konflikt mellan principer

Som jag idag skriver i DN, i replik till gårdagens huvudledare, var syftet med resan till Libyen 2010 att bla försöka få tillstånd ett samarbete rörande de omkring 1,5 miljoner migranter som fanns där.  UNHCR hade då hittills bedömt att omkring 9000 av dessa var konventionsflyktingar och i behov av hjälp.

Samarbetet innebar bland annat öronmärkt finansiering av UNHCR och IOM:s verksamhet i Libyen. Avtalet innefattade också samarbete kring frågor om gränskontroll och bättre villkor för migranter och asylsökande. För första gången någonsin fick vi med i avtalet formuleringar om mänskliga rättigheter och begreppet asyl, något som inte fanns i den libyska lagstiftningen.

Tillsammans med UNHCR och IOM försökte vi från EU:s sida hitta en möjlighet att skydda de allra mest utsatta. På grund av ovilja från den libyska regimen att gå med på våra krav kom samarbetet ingenvart och kort därefter bröt inbördeskriget ut.

Det kan i efterhand ses som godtroget att tro att det skulle lyckas, men som det politiska läget såg ut då var det den verklighet vi var tvungna att förhålla oss till för att kunna hjälpa dessa människor. Vi kan inte blunda för hur verkligheten ser ut utan måste göra vad vi kan för att hjälpa människor som utsätts för övergrepp och orättvis behandling. Det är smärtsamt att det ibland innebär att vi måste göra undantag från principerna om att inte förhandla med totalitära stater men då alternativ saknas måste principen om medmänsklighet vara störst.”

Click here for Malmström’s response.  (SV)

Click here for Dagens Nyheter editorial.  (SV)

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Malmström’s “Unfortunate Voyage to Libya”

An editorial by Annika Ström Melin in Dagens Nyheter (Sweden) summarised by Presseurop:

“‘An unfortunate voyage to Libya’ headlines the Dagens Nyheter editorial, which looks back on European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström’s visit to Libya in October 2010. [***] In practice [the agreement signed by the Commissioner in Libya] amounted to employing Gaddafi as an EU border guard, notes the Stockholm daily [***].  ‘It is easy to be clever with the benefit of hindsight,’ remarks the daily, ‘but the agreement with Gaddafi was already scandalous when it was signed. Today Cecilia Malmström will have to provide full information about the consequences of this meeting. Was there a dialogue? Where did the money go?’ In conclusion, Dagens Nyheter affirms that the entire EU should ask itself the question of how it came to sign a treaty with Gaddafi.”

Click here for Presseurop article.

Click here for Dagens Nyheter editorial.  (SV)

Click here and here for my previous posts on the Commissioner’s trip to Libya.

[UPDATE 25 August – Click here for Malmström’s response to the editorial.]

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Análisis del Real Instituto Elcano: La crisis en el Norte de África y su impacto en la inmigración irregular a la Unión Europea (by Frontex Dep. ED Gil Arias)

Real Instituto Elcano has published an analysis regarding the situation in North Africa and its impact on irregular immigration to the EU.  The analysis was written by Frontex’s Deputy Executive Director Gil Arias.

Of particular interest is the analysis regarding what Frontex believes might occur in regard to migrant flows from Libya under two different scenarios: Gadafi remaining in power or ultimately being removed from power (see Google translation of excerpt below):

“… En el caso de que el régimen de Gadafi recupere el control, la UE y sus Estados Miembros no podrán reanudar la cooperación con un régimen totalmente desacreditado. Se producirá el cese en la aplicación de acuerdos de cooperación policial que en el pasado (desde mayo de 2009) sirvieron para detener los flujos de inmigración irregular desde Libia hacia Italia y Malta. La posibilidad de que ciudadanos de otros países africanos bloqueados en Libia sean obligados o “ayudados” a emigrar a la UE no debe descartarse. De hecho, Gadafi ha amenazado con “abrir la puerta” de la inmigración ilegal hacia Europa.

La OIM estima la cifra de extranjeros presentes en Libia entre 0,5 y 1,5 millones. No obstante, no todos serian candidatos a la inmigración ilegal. Se trata fundamentalmente de trabajadores empleados por empresas extranjeras asentadas en el país, por lo que su intención primaria no sería la emigración a la UE y por otra parte una buena parte de ellos ya han abandonado Libia.

En el peor de los casos, la consecuencia de ese “abrir la puerta” sería la reactivación de los flujos por vía marítima hacia Lampedusa y Malta (eventualmente también Creta, que se encuentra a 200 km de distancia de la costa libia) en un escenario similar al de 2008 (40.000 inmigrantes llegaron a Italia y Malta, con origen en las costas libias) agravado por el efecto adicional de la inestabilidad en el país. Su destino principal serían los países con presencia importante de ciudadanos norteafricanos (Italia, Francia, España, Bélgica y el Reino Unido). El destino de los nacionales de países subsaharianos se encontraría más repartido por toda la UE.

Si Gadafi es derrocado resultará clave la capacidad y rapidez de la oposición para reorganizarse. La oposición se encuentra, por el momento, bastante desorganizada y es probable que se produzcan luchas internas por el poder, especialmente por el control de los campos petrolíferos. Ello podría conducir a un estado persistente de disturbios y a una ausencia de control por un largo periodo de tiempo.

La eventual reactivación de las rutas migratorias hacia la UE dependerá de la capacidad del nuevo régimen para imponer la ley y el orden en el país así como el control efectivo sobre los 2.000 km de costas y 4.000 km de fronteras terrestres libias. En el peor de los escenarios podría darse una situación similar a la de Somalia.

En este escenario, la economía libia puede deteriorarse y elevarse los niveles de desempleo. Actualmente se desconoce la tasa de desempleo en Libia, pero se presume baja. Previsiblemente, la mayoría de los trabajadores desempleados intentará regresar a sus países, pero parte de ellos (sobre todo los nacionales de países inseguros) buscaran otras oportunidades, entre ellas la emigración clandestina a la UE.

La ausencia de ley y orden, especialmente la ausencia de control sobre las fronteras marítimas, llevará rápidamente a las mafias al tráfico de inmigrantes hacia la UE. Los candidatos serían primariamente trabajadores desempleados no deseosos de volver a sus países (mayormente de África Occidental y Oriental, pero eventualmente también libios, egipcios, argelinos y tunecinos). Esta situación impediría, por otra parte, el retorno de quienes fuesen detectados cruzando ilegalmente las fronteras exteriores de la UE.

En tales circunstancias se puede prever un flujo constante de inmigración ilegal durante meses, mayoritariamente por vía marítima, pero también por vía aérea a través de Turquía. La duración en el tiempo de este escenario dependerá de la rapidez con la que la UE o los Estados Miembros y las nuevas autoridades sean capaces de restablecer la cooperación. En este sentido, serán determinantes los acuerdos de readmisión efectivos.

Por último, ha de tenerse también en cuenta el riesgo marginal de que los vencedores realicen acciones de persecución sobre los partidarios de Gadafi, lo que provocaría la huida de éstos del país en busca de refugio….”

Google translation of the above excerpts (NB – this is only a rough translation):

“…In the case of Qaddafi’s regime  regaining control, the EU and its Member States shall not resume cooperation with a discredited regime. Termination will occur in the implementation of agreements on police cooperation in the past (May 2009) served to stop the flow of illegal immigration from Libya to Italy and Malta. The possibility for citizens from other African countries locked in Libya are forced or “helped” to migrate to the EU can not be ruled out. In fact, Gaddafi has threatened to “open the door” of illegal immigration into Europe.

The IOM estimates the number of foreigners in Libya between 0.5 and 1.5 million. However, not all candidates would be illegal immigration. These are mainly employed by foreign companies settled in the country, so that their primary intention would not be the migration to the EU and, moreover, a good portion of them have already left Libya.

In the worst case, the consequence of this “open door” would be the reactivation of the flows by sea to Lampedusa and Malta (and possibly Crete, which is 200 km away from the Libyan coast) in a scenario similar to that of 2008 (40.000 immigrants arrived in Italy and Malta, departing from the Libyan coast) aggravated by the additional effect of instability in the country. Its main destination countries would be a significant presence of North African citizens (Italy, France, Spain, Belgium and the UK). The fate of the national sub-Saharan countries would be more distributed throughout the EU.

If Gadhafi is overthrown will be key capacity and speed of the opposition to regroup. The opposition is, at present, quite disorganized and is likely to produce internal power struggles, especially for control of the oilfields. This could lead to a persistent state of unrest and a lack of control over a long period of time.

The eventual recovery of migratory routes towards the EU depends on the ability of the new regime to impose law and order in the country as well as effective control over the 2,000 km of coastline and 4,000 km of land borders Libya. In the worst case scenario could be a situation similar to Somalia.

In this scenario, the Libyan economy may deteriorate and unemployment levels rise. Currently unknown unemployment rate in Libya, but presumably low. Predictably, most unemployed workers try to return to their countries, but some of them (especially insecure country nationals) to seek other opportunities, including illegal migration to the EU.

The absence of law and order, especially the lack of control over maritime borders, whisk the trafficking mafias immigrants into the EU. Candidates would be primarily unemployed workers eager to return to their countries (mostly from West and East Africa, but also possibly Libyans, Egyptians, Algerians and Tunisians). This would prevent, on the other hand, the return of those who were detected illegally crossing the external borders of the EU.

In such circumstances, can provide a steady flow of illegal immigration for months, mostly by sea, but also by air through Turkey. The long life of this scenario depends on the speed with which the EU or the Member States and the new authorities are able to restore cooperation. In this regard, will determine the effective readmission agreements.

Finally, it must also take into account the marginal risk that the winners perform acts of persecution on Gaddafi’s supporters, causing them to flee the country in search of refuge….”

Click here for the Analysis. (ES)

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NY Times Commentary: The Killing Seas

Here is an op-ed article from Thursday’s New York Times by Hans Lucht, an anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen and author of the forthcoming “Darkness Before Daybreak: African Migrants Living on the Fringes in Southern Italy Today.” (Scheduled for release Dec. 2011.)

“…. In the long run, Europe should learn from the situation in Libya that paying dictators to make ‘problems’ disappear is not only morally bankrupt but also short-sighted. European leaders must seek commitments from any post-Qaddafi government to handle the challenges of international migration in an orderly and humane fashion. Instead of banishing asylum-seekers to detention camps in the desert, Europe should offer support to Tunisia and Egypt, which are struggling to assist refugees from Libya, and to southern European countries….”

Click here for article.

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EP Foreign Affairs Committee Calls for Reinstatement of EU-Libya Migration Agreement Once New Libyan Govt in Power

While the likelihood of there being a new transitional government in Libya appears less and less likely every day, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday, 16 March, called for the reinstatement of the EU-Libya cooperation agreement on migration, signed in Tripoli on 4 October 2010 by Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, as soon as a new transition government able to respect human rights is in place in Libya.

From the EP Press Release: “MEPs believe that the EU-Libya cooperation agreement on migration – currently suspended – should be reinstated as soon as a new transition government able to respect human rights is in place.  This move … [was] highlighted on Wednesday in a draft resolution by the Foreign Affairs Committee as the best way[] to tackle illegal immigration from conflict regions.   Regretting that ‘the only option available’ was the suspension of the EU-Libya Cooperation Agenda on migration, MEPs stress that the suspension ‘should be revoked as soon as there is a new transitional government willing to promote a democratic and human rights based implementation of the agreement’. Similar migration agreements should be reached with other EU neighbouring countries, said MEPs in the draft resolution, which was adopted by 53 votes to 1, with 3 abstentions.”

The Committee also called for a burden sharing plan “to help resettle refugees from the region and provide support for displaced persons.  This would require activation of Article 80 of the EU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which cites the principle of solidarity and fair burden-sharing among all Member States on policies to do with managing border checks, asylum and immigration, including their financial implications.”

Click here for EP Press Release.

Click here for article.

Click here for 18 Jan 2011 Draft Resolution (18.1.2011) and amendments considered (18.2.2011).

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EU migration control made by Gaddafi?

An article from OpenDemocracy by Prof. Gregor Noll (Lund University) and Mariagiulia Giuffré (doctoral candidate at the School of International Studies, University of Trento):

“[T]here is a far-reaching consensus that a government [such as the Gaddafi Government] that uses indiscriminate lethal force to retain power is, as the diplomatic phrasebook has it, “unacceptable”. Yet, over the past six years, it has been perfectly acceptable for EU governments to outsource its border protection to an authoritarian leader with a dismal human rights record…. We, the citizens of the EU, should also be reminded that for over three years now, we have relied on Gaddafi and his state apparatus to keep asylum seekers and other migrants away from our doors….”

Click here for article.


Filed under Analysis, European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean

ECRE Statement: Safe haven for people fleeing bloodshed in Libya

ECRE issued a statement earlier today.  Here is the full statement:

As the situation in Libya is worsening and the world is watching the atrocities of Gaddafi’s regime, European governments are stepping up efforts to evacuate their citizens outside the country. The repression is brutal and just as British, Turkish, Egyptians and other foreigners, some Libyans and refugees from sub-Saharan countries unable to go back and stranded in Libya will need refuge from violence and human rights abuses.

At this historical moment, on the other side of the Mediterranean, the EU needs to live up to its obligations to protect those fleeing the violence.

With or without Frontex, border control operations carried out at sea cannot result in persons being returned to Libya without assessing in a fair asylum procedure whether they are in need of international protection.

Some European governments have warned of an exodus of biblical proportions. The truth is that what will happen is totally unpredictable. For the moment, those leaving the country seem to be travelling to Egypt or remaining elsewhere in the region. So far, according to the EU Border Agency Frontex, some 5.500 people, mainly Tunisians, arrived to Lampedusa in January and February. This is nowhere near the number that would make an asylum system of a country such as Italy collapse.

Even if the number of people arriving to Europe would increase dramatically, to the extent that an immediate and individual assessment of their protection needs would no longer be possible, the EU has already at its disposal the tools to ensure that people can reach a safe haven. The Temporary Protection Directive, adopted after the Kosovo crisis, allows Member States to grant immediately a protection status to persons who arrive in Europe in the context of so-called mass influx and makes it possible for Member States to better share responsibility through the relocation of refugees protected under this scheme to other EU countries.

In addition, the recently established European Asylum Support Office has the competence to deploy national asylum experts to EU Member States receiving high numbers of asylum seekers. Although the agency is not yet operational, ad hoc solutions can be found if need be.

Finally, the EU’s decision to suspend the negotiations with Libya on a framework agreement, which included cooperation in the field of immigration and asylum, is indeed the only sensible thing to do. Libya’s poor human rights record was well known when last year the European Commission agreed to offer the dictatorship € 50m over the next 3 years to reinforce Tripoli’s capacity to prevent migrants from entering the Southern border and from crossing the Mediterranean towards Europe. According to the European Commission, no money has been disbursed so far. The bloodshed in the country and the regime’s attempts to blackmail the EU by threatening with breaking its cooperation on controlling migration towards Europe, showed clearer than ever who the EU was willing to trust to control migration to Europe. This cannot go on.


Ana Fontal

Senior Press and Public Information Officer

Tel: +32 2 212 08 12

Mobile: + 32 (0) 486 531 676


Click here for link to statement.

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Catherine Ashton Announces Suspension of Negotiations on EU-Libya Framework Agreement

A statement released today by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton at the conclusion of her meetings in Egypt includes the following:

“Regarding specific action on Libya, we are looking forward to the meeting of UN Security Council. It will address the situation in Libya later today and will discuss all options, including restrictive measures. For my part, I have called a meeting of EU Ambassadors to look at what the European Union can do to support the UN and what measures it can take. As the situation stands, we have suspended negotiations on EU-Libya Framework Agreement. We are coordinating closely with Member States in Brussels, in New York and in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council, where I will be myself on Monday.”

Click here for full statement.

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Libyan Interior Minister Met Commissioner Malmström on 15 Feb.

According to the EU Observer, Libya’s Interior Minister met last week with Commissioner Cecilia Malmström: “It emerged on Monday  [21 Feb.] that the Libyan interior minister, Abdel Fatah Younes, visited EU home affairs commissioner [Cecilia Malmström] last Tuesday (15 February) to discuss ‘how to put into practice’ an agreement reached in October on immigration co-operation.  The commission last year offered the country some €50 million euros to assist in efforts to prevent irregular migrants from reaching the Mediterranean’s northern shores. At the meeting, it is thought that a figure of 2 million refugees was brandished by Mr Younes.”

It is unclear from the article whether Libya used this meeting with Malmström to communicate a threat to halt cooperation on irregular immigration similar to the one that was communicated to the Hungarian Ambassador to Libya on 17 February or whether this was an otherwise routine meeting in furtherance of the EU-Libya framework agreement.

Click here for article.

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WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: EU-Libya Framework Agreement Hangs on ICC, Trade, Migration

This cable provides the views of the US Embassy in Tripoli as of July 2009 regarding the EU-Libya Framework Agreement negotiations.  A round of EU-Libya negotiations took place on 13-14 July 2009.  The cable was written by the US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires at the time, Joan Polaschik, and is titled:  “EU FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT HANGS ON ICC, TRADE, MIGRATION.”

According to the cable, Libyan negotiator Mohammed Siala “railed against language stating that the [EU and Libya] agreed to discuss crimes against humanity in an international context, angrily stating that any mention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or text similar to that of the Rome Statute would cause a total breakdown of the framework negotiations.”  Negotiations on migration issues however went more smoothly according to the cable: “the chief EC negotiator told EU diplomats that the negotiations [on migration] were a ‘step forward’ and that more progress was made than expected with no major objections from either side on the draft as presented….”

Excerpts from the cable:

“1.(C/NF) Summary: The latest round of EU-Libya Framework Agreement negotiations hit snags over sensitive political issues and were slowed by Libya’s inefficient technical bureaucracy. The Libyans denounced the International Criminal Court and decreed that any language similar to the Rome Statute was off limits. Trade talks stalled when the Libyans announced that they had not examined the draft paper (presented in early 2009) and were unable to produce trade statistics from 2007/2008 or provide data on the Libyan tariff system. Talks on migration went more smoothly than expected, but significant issues remain before the agreement could be given to member states for approval. EU diplomats in Tripoli are skeptical that the EC will be able to get an agreement that can be implemented by both sides within the remaining two rounds of talks….


2.(C/NF) Representatives of the European Commission (EC) based in Brussels conducted the latest round of Framework Agreement negotiations July 13-14 in Tripoli with sessions focused on political dialogue, trade and commerce, and migration. Diplomats from EU member states — participating as observers to the EC-Libya negotiations — said that discussions on the political framework were particularly heated. Libyan negotiator Mohammed Siala railed against language stating that the two parties agreed to discuss crimes against humanity in an international context, angrily stating that any mention of the International Criminal Court (ICC) or text similar to that of the Rome Statute would cause a total breakdown of the framework negotiations. According to the UK embassy, nothing in the political dialogue paper is binding on either party and is merely agenda-setting for future discussions. EC negotiators were not/not pushing for Libya to accede to the ICC….


4.(C) … On migration, the chief EC negotiator told EU diplomats that the negotiations were a “step forward” and that more progress was made than expected with no major objections from either side on the draft as presented….”

Click here or here for the full Cable.

Click here for a post regarding an earlier US cable discussing the state of EU-Libya framework negotiations in 2008.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


Filed under Denmark, European Union, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, Netherlands, News, Spain

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:


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.


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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Filed under European Union, General, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, United States

WikiLeaks 2009 US Cable: UN Official says Libya, Italy shirking HR responsibilities

Several US State Department cables discussing Libya, Italy, Malta, and the EU have been released over the past several days by WikiLeaks.  I will post several of the memos over the next day or so.

Among the cables released by WikiLeaks on 31 January 2011, is a Cable written in August 2009 by Gene Cretz, US Ambassador to Libya.  The cable is headed: “UN OFFICIAL SAYS LIBYA, ITALY SHIRKING HUMAN RIGHTS RESPONSIBILITIES.” Excerpts from the cable:

“In a July 28 [2009] meeting with Pol/Econ chief and Poloff, UNHCR Chief of Mission Mohammed al-Wash complained that Italy was breaking its commitments to support UN and EU charters on human rights by returning asylum seekers to Libya with other economic migrants, and strongly denounced the Italian Coast Guard’s tactics while forcing migrants to return. He cited the example of the return of 80 migrants — including several refugees registered with UNHCR in Tripoli, Addis Ababa, and Cairo — interdicted by Italy on or around July 1 who later related their story to UNHCR staff. When the vessel carrying the migrants was stopped, three Eritrean representatives reportedly asked to speak with the Italian ship’s commander to inform him of their refugee status. Several on the boat produced their UNHCR attestations for the commander. Replying that he was under strict orders from his government to return migrants to Libya, the Italian commander reportedly ordered that all migrants – including those registered with UNHCR — be removed from their vessel for transport to Libya. Some of the migrants refused, leading to physical altercations between the migrants and the Italian crew that ended with the Italians beating some Africans with plastic and metal batons, leaving at least six injured. Migrants on the boat reportedly filmed the incident with their mobile phones, leading the Italian crew to confiscate phones, documents, and personal belongings that have not yet been returned….”

“Al-Wash alleged that the Italian government was intentionally stonewalling the UN. According to al-Wash, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiano refuses to meet with UNHCR and told al-Wash that he was a “troublemaker.” Al-Wash believed that that Trupiano was single-mindedly focused on returning migrants to Libya and claimed to be unaware that Rome had agreed in principle to accept 63 refugees for resettlement from Libya. UNHCR has also submitted to the GOI a list of 93 refugees that have been returned since Italy and Libya began joint patrols in May. According to al-Wash, Rome agreed to accept “20 or 30″ of the 93 refugees, provided EU states committed to a burden-sharing agreement, though states did not seem eager to undertake one. Al-Wash was hopeful the EC would intercede to bring Italy in line, citing the EC’s inclusion of Libya signing an MOU with UNHCR as part of its requirements for a Framework Agreement (ref A) and a recent letter from the Commission to the Italian Interior Ministry, reminding it of its obligations under the EU’s Human Rights Charter….”

“Al-Wash alleged that the Italian government was intentionally stonewalling the UN. According to al-Wash, Italian Ambassador Francesco Trupiano refuses to meet with UNHCR and told al-Wash that he was a “troublemaker.” Al-Wash believed that that Trupiano was single-mindedly focused on returning migrants to Libya and claimed to be unaware that Rome had agreed in principle to accept 63 refugees for resettlement from Libya. UNHCR has also submitted to the GOI a list of 93 refugees that have been returned since Italy and Libya began joint patrols in May. According to al-Wash, Rome agreed to accept “20 or 30″ of the 93 refugees, provided EU states committed to a burden-sharing agreement, though states did not seem eager to undertake one. Al-Wash was hopeful the EC would intercede to bring Italy in line, citing the EC’s inclusion of Libya signing an MOU with UNHCR as part of its requirements for a Framework Agreement (ref A) and a recent letter from the Commission to the Italian Interior Ministry, reminding it of its obligations under the EU’s Human Rights Charter.”

Click here or here for the full memo.

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Filed under European Union, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, UNHCR