Search

 

Cablegate: The Eu-Libya Framework Agreement: Veni, Visas, Veto

P 140739Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3685
INFO EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI

C O N F I D E N T I A L TRIPOLI 000567


DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/MAG AND INR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/14/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL EU ECIN ECON PBTS LY
SUBJECT: THE EU-LIBYA FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT: VENI, VISAS, VETO

REF: TRIPOLI 457


CLASSIFIED BY: John T. Godfrey, CDA, U.S. Embassy - Tripoli, Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (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 allow 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. Libya fails to understand that visa policy is not an EU competence, Spanish diplomats said, adding that the GOL hopes to publicly highlight reduced waiting time for Schengen visas as a "reward" for having resolved the medics case. According to French Poloff Pierre-Antoine Molina, the current Schengen regime for Libya gives each Schengen member 10 days to object to any Libyan applicant on security grounds. Libya hopes to lobby for a reclassification under the Schengen rules to shorten the waiting period to 48 hours. Libyans are particularly vexed that neighbors Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt are not subject to the 10 day waiting period. The July 2007 draft agreement notes that reclassifying Libyans for Schengen purposes would be contingent upon Libya abolishing all visa requirements for EU citizens, something the GOL has so far shown no inclination that it is prepared to do. 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. The Libyans also envision EU commitments to fund health infrastructure investments in Benghazi, to provide "life-long" treatment for the Benghazi children (including treatment in Europe), and to provide continued support to Libya's efforts to develop a national HIV/AIDS strategy. (Note: European states already play a significant role in supporting Libya's HIV/AIDS efforts through the Benghazi International Fund, developed in connection with the Bulgarian medics case, which the Belgian Red Cross plays a lead role in shepherding. End note.) In addition, the GOL has claimed that draft language initialed by Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner "commits" the EU to facilitating access to European markets for Libyan food exports, to providing technical assistance to archeological restoration projects in Libya, and 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. Italy particularly wants the GOL to lift a pernicious requirement that any contract with an Italian firm be approved by the office of the Prime Minister (a requirement other states' firms are not subjected to), and to permit Italian nationals evacuated from Libya in the 1970's to visit 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. Tripoli Airport Director Youssef al-Jeribi told Poloff (incorrectly) in March that Libyans no longer need to wait 10 days to obtain Schengen visas. Similarly, many Libyans persist in thinking (again, incorrectly) that over $400 million in EU "compensation" payments to the Libyan victims of the 1999 Benghazi HIV/AIDS outbreak have facilitated the latest European rapprochement. 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

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC