European Union External Action

Speech by HR/VP Mogherini at the plenary session of the European Parliament on Libya

Strasbourg, 29/05/2018 - 20:42, UNIQUE ID: 180529_23
HR/VP speeches

Speech by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the plenary session of the European Parliament on Libya

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Thank you, Mr. President,

Vorrei iniziare con un ringraziamento a[l relatore] Pier Antonio Panzeri, ma anche al Vice-Presidente [Fabio Massimo] Castaldo, al Presidente della Delegazione per il Maghreb [Inés] Ayala Sender e al Presidente di LIBE Claude Moraes, per aver condotto questa importante visita a Tunisi e a Tripoli la scorsa settimana, perché per la prima volta da più di sei anni il Parlamento Europeo è tornato in Libia.

E questo è un segno importantissimo dell'unita di cui parlava l'Onorevole [Pier Antonio] Panzeri, dell'unità e delle istituzioni europee innanzitutto nell'attenzione che prestiamo a ciò che succede in Libia e alla volontà di farlo, questo lavoro di sostegno e di attenzione alla Libia, innanzitutto con un ascolto a ciò che i nostri interlocutori libici stanno facendo e ci stanno dicendo, e con una volontà di unire gli sforzi europei e dare un quadro unitario, coerente, dell'azione dell'Unione Europea, dei propri Stati Membri, delle proprie istituzioni, a sostegno di un processo di transizione in Libia.

C'è questa determinazione forte e io vengo proprio in questo momento da Parigi, dove ho partecipato alla Conferenza Internazionale ospitata dal Presidente [della Francia Emmanuel] Macron e dove ho potuto portare quest'impegno, questa determinazione europea, di tutti gli europei, di tutte le istituzioni europee, ad accompagnare questo momento particolarmente importante per un paese così vicino a noi come la Libia.

I believe both the recommendations [by the European Parliament to the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Service] and your visit are inspired by this attitude towards Libya, recognising that Libya is first of all an important, vital, crucial country, not only for Africa, for the Mediterranean, for Europe, but also that Libya is a rich country, that would not need any help if it was not be transitioning for so long. It is a rich country not only in terms of natural resources, but first and foremost in terms of of human capital. It is home to millions of smart, diverse people, who have had enough of the current instability and of this endless transition.

So, we cannot make – and I am happy we are not making here - the mistake to look at Libya focusing on one issue only, be it migration or be it security.  Because the fist duty we have, the first responsibility and even the first interest we have, as Europeans, is to support Libya - with the Libyans and for the Libyans. Also because there would be no other way to have a successful end of the instability in the country.

Libya needs reconciliation. It needs a clear legitimate framework and it needs inclusive dialogue. It also needs economic investment; it needs nation-wide strong legitimate institutions, and job opportunities for its people. This is the spirit of the work you are currently doing, looking at the broad spectrum of issues that are on the table dealing with the country, and this has always been our approach towards Libya.

And this was also the spirit of our meeting in Paris this morning, hosted by President Macron, together with all the major Libyan players, for the first time gathered together. We pledged and they committed to support a constitutional process leading to elections, ideally during this year – you mentioned the date we agreed today of mid-December - and to unite the security forces of Libya – another aspect that is not irrelevant at all.

We need to contribute in a united manner – Europeans, Arabs, Africans, neighbouring countries, under the umbrella of the United Nations - to this process, helping Libya come out of this long transition. This is what the Libyans want, what they are asking for and this is what they deserve. And I would add, this is also the responsibility of the Libyan leaders to respond and to deliver on this demand of the Libyan people.

The security situation in the country is slightly improving: the number of those killed in political violence has decreased sharply; there is a precarious but real calm in most of the country, including in Tripoli even if in these hours, we have seen worrying events in Derna. Terrorism has not been defeated yet: last week a car bomb killed 7 people and injured 20 in Benghazi. At the beginning of the month, terrorists struck the High National Electoral Commission in Tripoli, killing 13 people. It was an attack against all the Libyans committed to the democratic process. We have to make sure that this does not become an attack on the democratic process itself.

And here the international and European support is essential, because we have been working with the Libyan authorities to prepare and to accompany this democratic process. We have been working with the Libyan authorities to help first and foremost ensure that their security forces unite under civilian control, and that they fully respect human rights. We have a long way to go. But I see the commitment there and I see some movements happening. Some militias will have to be integrated in the security forces through a proper vetting process, others will have to lay down their weapons.

Special Representative [of the Secretary General of the United Nations and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Ghassan] Salamé will soon present a strategy to this aim to the UN Security Council. We, as European Union, can and must continue to support the UN in this respect, including through our civilian border assistance mission, EUBAM Libya that is now permanently established in Tripoli, and is best placed to work with the Libyans on law enforcement, criminal justice and border management. I heard today from our Libyan interlocutors, all of them, words of gratitude and praise on the work the European Union is doing in this sector and others.

Uniting the security apparatus is not enough. Border action is also needed to enforce the UN arms and oil embargo. As you know, [EUNAVFOR MED] Operation Sophia plays an important role also in this sector. The mandate of the Operation is currently under review and by the end of this year we hope to reach a Council Decision to extend and strengthen this mandate where necessary.

But security is only one part of the picture and our cooperation with the Libyans goes further beyond  that. The political process is probably the priority number one and it is also what we discussed more in depth this morning in Paris. As European Union, we are currently working with the High National Electoral Commission to prepare the electoral process. It is thanks to the EU-UN partnership if the steps of preparing this process have been put in place so far and we intend to continue this way. Technical preparations are ongoing, voter registration has been completed with 2.5 million registered voters out of 4 million [eligible voters]. So, it is a very encouraging starting point. Libyans want and deserve to exercise their fundamental right and choose their country's future.

But there are two points I have also raised very clearly today in Paris with all of our Libyan interlocutors. First of all, the Libyans have to know what they are voting for. The powers of all institutions will have to be clarified in time. A President elected in a legal vacuum could be dangerous, also because it is the first time Libyans would elect a President. So its powers, its relations with the other branches of power, including the executive branch, have to be defined. And this is why adopting the constitution before the elections is essential to give clarity to the electoral process. I know that in your visit to Tripoli you conveyed these messages to both the High Council of State [of Libya] and the House of Representatives [of Libya]. And I know that you received assurances about their strong commitment. And today I have heard encouraging voices in this respect.

The other thing that I made very clear today, and I know this is also a reflection of your work, is that elections need to take place in an environment that makes sure and guarantees that the day after the election, all those involved recognise its results. Elections that might be contested or disputed the day after might be counterproductive or - in the best case - not lead the country to move forward. This is why this morning in Paris I asked all of the four Libyan leaders present to commit and engage in an electoral process and also to take the responsibility of accepting the electoral results the day after. I believe that this is the basis for a transparent, open and credible electoral process.

Libyans want an end to the transition, they made it very clear. They had more than 40 town hall meetings all over the country. We supported the organisation of these meetings. This is part of the work towards a national conference that should meet after the end of Ramadan. The initiative has come from the United Nations. The process is led on the ground by some NGOs and the European Union is supporting, including financially, this process. For the first time since the revolution, Libyans from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all different parts of the country, have the opportunity to discuss their aspirations and the future of the country. We also support mediation activities between the tribes at community level, for example to ease the returns home. I know that your delegation met, for instance, with the Mayor of Tawergha, who expressed his gratitude to the European Union.

As these processes move on, the economy is also slowly picking up. This was confirmed also by our Libyan interlocutors today. But conditions for ordinary people in Libya remain dire. Public services such as health care have been badly affected and we have to make sure that the benefits of an economy that might restart - starting from the oil production - get to the Libyan people on the ground. So, in parallel to the work on security and for reconciliation, we are also engaged on the ground to revive local economies and create good jobs. We are working with the World Bank in particular to improve public finance management and with Expertise France to create new business opportunities. We also support twenty-two municipalities across the country - I believe municipalities are key in this process - to help them rebuild their infrastructure and deliver better services. A new and ambitious project with €50 million dedicated to it is under preparation in coordination with the Italian cooperation.

We care about Libya, as you said, because we care about the people of Libya, but also because we know that caring about Libya is the best investment also in our own security and stability.

I know that I have been too long, so I would probably stop here and leave other comments for the other parts of our debate.

I thank you very much, but first and foremost thank you for the excellent work you have been doing together with the other colleagues. Thank you.


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Closing remarks

I think that for once Mr [Pier Antonio] Panzeri made a sort of miracle of uniting the hemicycle around not only his report, but also a common work with Libya, for Libya.

I will touch upon a few specific points that were raised, either in terms of comments or questions, and specify, maybe in a better way than I have done previously, the sequencing and the meaning of the Paris meeting in comparison with the overall work we are doing in the international community.

First of all, the specific points that were raised. Transfer of the EU Delegation to Tripoli: we have been working on that constantly over the last months and I would expect to be able to give you good news in the coming weeks. In the meantime, some of you asked for EUBAM Libya to be present in Libya. As I said in my opening remarks, EUBAM Libyais present in Libya, it is operating now from Tripoli since several weeks. And this is obviously a major asset we have, because the daily work, especially when it comes to the border management and the criminal justice sector, is much better done on the ground than from Tunis.

Second, some of you referred to the role of the militias. As I said, also, but I want to underline this, it is clear to all that part of the members of the militias will need to be disarmed. This is an effort that is always complicated at the end of a transition, of a conflict. It is also an aspect in which the European Union and the Member States have relevant know-how and competence.

We have been working on this in several different conflict areas and crisis areas in the world. I think that tomorrow this hemicycle will listen to President [of Colombia Juan Manuel] Santos that might tell us something interesting about how a disarmament process can be conducted, and also there [in Colombia] we have supported and helped. There is a way to do this. Obviously it is not easy, it is never easy. On top of that, we are talking about Libya, which, I hope everybody understands, is different than talking about Norway. It is a different kind of country. Part of the militia members will need to be integrated in one security force, under civilian responsibility. This is also what we have been discussing in Paris and this is mainly what the UN Special Representative [and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, Mr. Ghassan Salamé] is working on, with our active accompanying role and support, because, as I said, we have a specific competence and know-how on this.

The third point that was mentioned - and that I did not touch upon it intentionally in my opening remarks - is the issue of migration. I did not touch upon this, because we have discussed several times about the situation of migrants inside Libya. And I believe that for once Libya deserved a discussion on Libya and Libyans and not purely focussed on the situation of migrants in the country. Even if we know very well that solving the Libyan crisis would also be a way, the best possible way, to fight the traffickers' networks, to save lives and to guarantee a sustainable, manageable, humane approach to this.

But, as many of you referred to, I think we have set up for the first time ever a good pattern of work. Thanks to the Task Force we have established - the European Union, the African Union, the United Nations - last November - in a few months, the three of us together have managed, working on the ground, to help save 26,000 people that have been able to voluntarily return to their home countries in an accompanied manner through the IOM and with the European Union support. Another 1600 people who were in the detention centres and who have been assessed as in need of international protection - the status of refugees - have been evacuated in view of their resettlement through the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees]. We have been also providing resettlement opportunities inside the European Union and we have been helping the UNHCR to find other resettlement opportunities around the world.

It is the first time ever that a work like this has been put in place. This has been possible over the last months thanks to a partnership that has never existed like this before, between the European Union, the United Nations and the African Union. Just last week in Brussels, when we had the College to College meeting between the European Commission and the African Union Commission, we have decided to extend the work of this Task Force so that we can continue working together on the ground in Libya. And this is something we discussed also today with our Libyan interlocutors in Paris.

Last but not least, two points. On the elections - it is clear, first of all, as Mr. [Fabio Massimo] Castaldo [Member of the European Parliament] mentioned, elections need to take place in the context of a constitution and constitutional clarity, and an electoral law. I made it very clear, not only in Paris, but also in my opening remarks here. The EU’ssupport to the elections is already taking place, as the European Union is the one supporting the United Nations’ work on the ground to prepare this road. As you know better than anyone else, we have certain experience in accompanying countries in difficult situations to build up their way to credible elections. And we have also committed to increasing our support to the organisation of the elections and, eventually, if the conditions will be in place, to contribute by sending an Electoral Observation Mission to Libya.

The last point, but not the least: Some of you refer to a "Paris Agenda". Let me be very clear on this: the sense of the meeting this morning in Paris - very clearly specified and set up by President Macron - is to support the UN work and to support the UN roadmap. There is no competition of agendas here. It is a matter of uniting forces for a coherent,regional and international accompanying work to the UN.

Because we realised that if the regional organisations, the neighbouring countries, starting from the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League, all the neighbouring countries in Africa, but also in Europe, do not join forces to accompany every single step of the work done by the UN and by the Libyans, this entire agenda of the UN roadmap risks to slow down. And Libyan partners risk to refer to one interlocutor or the other, to take a different or slightly different path. The unity of international forces and the unity of the regional actors starting from the European Union, the Arab League and the African Union is essential - exactly to support the work of [Ghassan] Salamé [UN Special Representative and Head of the Support Mission in Libya] and of the United Nations.

This is the sense of the meeting that we had this morning. And this roadmap leading to elections, hopefully – insha'Allah – on 10 December, can only work if there is commitment and responsibility by the Libyans, the different Libyan institutions and leaders, unity of international and regional actors to accompany and support this work, and if all of this converges under the UN umbrella and leadership. If we have this three conditions in place, I believe that commitments can turn into concrete steps that would help bring the country out of the crisis.

In all of this, the role of the European Parliament will continue to be essential. So, the praises for the excellent report and recommendations of Mr Panzeri turn into a plea to continue the work, actively, supporting this process. Especially as Libya heads - hopefully - towards elections, the role of the European Parliament in accompanying this process will continue to be key, and will actually become even more essential, so, we count on you.

Thank you.


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