EU seeks closer relations with Libya

Reveals plans to strengthen political, social, economic, commercial and cultural ties.

Gaddafi 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Gaddafi 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union Commission is presenting proposals to bolsters its relations with Libya on the heels of a memorandum of understanding signed between the parties last July. The EU's External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner is presenting the proposals to the commission on Wednesday. They will be studied by working groups before being presented to the EU's 27 member states. The commission will negotiate the agreement with the Libyan government with the objective of strengthening political, social, economic, commercial and cultural relations between the parties. Ties between the EU and Libya were enhanced last year after the EU secured the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who had been jailed in Libya for eight years. They were found guilty of deliberately infecting 460 Libyan children with the HIV virus. The medics' incarceration was a major obstacle in establishing relations and the widely covered release helped bring Libya out of the diplomatic cold. The release was facilitated by Ferrero-Waldner and France's first lady at the time, Cecilia Sarkozy. Observers noted that the move was likely to boost Tripoli's ties with the West. One of the outcomes of the release was a memorandum of understanding that they would improve relations. The understanding included granting Libya better access to European markets for export and archeological and restoration aid. The EU implied it would also improve cooperation in immigration and tourism. Ferrero-Waldner described this as a historic decision. "Libya is an important player in the Mediterranean region and in Africa, and so far has no framework for relations with the EU. The launching of negotiations for a new agreement is the successful result of the reciprocal dialogue and engagement started in 2004," she said. The EU is interested in increasing its energy investments in Libya, and it wants assistance in marine patrols to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, who use Libya as a launching pad from Africa into Europe. For a long time Libya was shunned by the UN because of its refusal to turn in suspects of the Pan Am plane bombing in 1988 over Lockerbie, in which 270 people were killed. European sanctions, which were imposed on Libya after the bombing, were lifted in 2004 after Libya accepted responsibility and agreed to give compensation to the victims' relatives. Libya was elected to the UN Security Council last year after the US dropped its objections. The country also held the rotating presidency of the council in January 2008, a further indication of a rapprochement with the international community. Also, Western countries welcomed Libya's 2003 announcement that it would abandon its weapons of mass destruction program. Libya was removed from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2006.