Libya ready for 'solid relations' with EU
European Voice - 29 January 2004
By David Cronin
LIBYA wishes to become a fully fledged partner of the EU, one of the country's most senior politicians declared this week.
Until now Libya has had only observer status at certain meetings of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership (also known as the Barcelona Process), which underpins relations between the EU and 11 states in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the Palestinian Authority.
Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, vice-president of the General People's Congress in Tripoli, has signalled that the recent rapprochement between Libya and the West should see it signing up fully to this body. Launched in 1995, the aim of the Barcelona Process is to establish free trade accords between the EU and the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries, and to create a `common area of peace and stability', based on human rights and democracy.
"Libya has been subject to peculiar pressures and as a result of those has not been able to play its full role in Euro-Mediterranean dialogue," Ibrahim told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on Tuesday (27 January). "My country is now working towards development and peace and we wish to have solid relations with the world at large, especially the European Union. We certainly do not wish to remain outside this framework; we would like to become part of the Euro-Mediterranean framework."
After years of being an international pariah, the regime led by Muammer Gadaffi is currently edging closer to EU governments and the US following its agreement last month to allow snap visits by international weapons inspectors and its decision to pay compensation to families of those killed by the 1988 bombing of a PanAm jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and also French victims of the 1989 bombing of a UTA airliner over sub-Saharan Africa. European Commission President Romano Prodi has been especially keen for the EU to make peace with Gadaffi for some time. In 2000, he invited Gadaffi to Brussels for what would have been the military ruler's first visit to the Belgian capital since 1992. But he later withdrew the invitation due to strains between Tripoli and several EU countries.
Ibrahim, who was leading a parliamentary delegation on a visit to the EU institutions, insisted Gadaffi, leader of the 1969 socialist revolution, has no administrative role in present-day Libyan affairs. Instead Libya claims to exercise 'direct democracy', where the general adult population can have a say in a series of decision-making conferences and committees in their villages, towns or cities, with a similar model used for the General People's Congress at national level.
"Libya is not ruled by Gadaffi," said Ibrahim. "Gadaffi can propose any proposal but the people have the final say. He's not a ruler per se; he's a thinker, a person with charisma, who's well-loved in our country."
But his remarks met with a sceptical response from MEPs. Charles Tannock said he would take the comments with "a pinch of salt"; the UK Conservative said he had met Gadaffi's son Seif-al-Islam in London and had deduced that he had been conferred with considerable power by his father. Swedish Green Per Gahrton, meanwhile, asked when the EU would be able to send a mission to supervize a presidential election in Libya.