EU uncertain how to respond

  • 2011-02-23
  • From wire reports

TALLINN - European Union foreign ministers said the 27-nation bloc cannot intervene in Libya, and focused instead on hammering out trade and aid measures to help crisis-stricken North Africa, reports Bloomberg. “It’s not our job to change the leader of Libya,” Finland’s Alexander Stubb said before a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Feb. 21. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Europe shouldn’t interfere,” expressing alarm over what he said was “the self-proclamation of the so-called Islamic emirate of Benghazi.”
“Would you imagine having an Islamic Arab emirate at the borders of Europe?” Frattini said. “This would be a really serious threat.”

Violence in Libya, Africa’s biggest holder of crude-oil reserves, has centered on the east of the country, including the city of Benghazi, and follows popular protests that toppled autocratic rulers of Tunisia and Egypt. Unrest has also flared in Yemen, Djibouti and Bahrain as governments have sought to crack down on calls for reform.
The EU on Feb. 20 called on Libya to halt “violence against peaceful demonstrators” and to end its blocking of the Internet and mobile phone networks. EU foreign ministers said in the statement that they were “extremely concerned by the events unfolding in Libya.”

Frattini said the EU wants to approve funds for southern Mediterranean rim states. Ministers disagree, however, on opening the bloc’s markets to the region’s agriculture products, an EU diplomat said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media. Southern EU states have reservations about allowing in North African farm exports, the diplomat said.

The EU isn’t doing enough to end the violence in Libya, said Shada Islam, an analyst at the Brussels-based Friends of Europe policy advisory group. “This is no longer a question of aid or markets, but rather of urgent humanitarian intervention,” she said in an interview. “They need to send out the message the EU will have nothing to do with a pariah regime, coordinate with the U.S. and call an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council.”