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European leaders calling for Gaddafi’s departure

Statement by Michael Bauer

11.03.2011 · CfJ topline

European leaders are now calling for Muammar Gaddafi’s immediate resignation.

At an emergency summit in Brussels today, PM David Cameron said the European Union would strengthen its sanctions on the Libyan regime.

While military options  would be kept “open”, any intervention would require backing by both the UN and the Arab League.

The EU’s 27 member states are determined to increase pressure on Gaddafi.

Meanwhile, Gaddafi is still clinging onto power after his forces drove the opposition out of Ras Lanouf, a strategic oil port, yesterday.

Ahead of the summit, European countries were far from agreeing on a course of action: while France had been the first country to recognise the Libyan opposition as legitimate, others including Germany remained more reserved.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy and PM David Cameron had written a joint letter to European Council President Herman van Rompuy demanding immediate action.

According to PA, they wrote that the world was “witnessing on a daily basis an unacceptable continuation of violence and repression in Libya”, condemning the regime’s use of military force against its own civilians as “utterly unacceptable”.

They warned that these actions could amount to crimes against humanity and be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.

Both countries also welcomed the formation of an Interim Transitional National Council in Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, proposing a “cooperative dialogue” with a government in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Michael Bauer, Research Fellow and Head of the Middle East Programme at the Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP) in Munich, had remained sceptical about what could be achieved in Brussels today.

“The sanctions will be extended, but a military option is not really on the table at the moment, presumably because a number of member states are worried about becoming involved in a civil war.”

He stressed that a request by the Arab League, which is meeting tomorrow, would be necessary for such an endeavour. Even though the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had already expressed itself in this way, further backing would be needed. 

Regarding repeated calls for a no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi from using air strikes against the population, Mr Bauer said that such a measure would be seen as more legitimate if it was set up by Arab countries and patrolled by NATO or the EU.

“Also, an internationally coordinated positioning would be desirable – we might see that happening today. The EU has never been good at crisis management and this is becoming clear again now.  France, Germany and the UK all take their positions, communicate them publicly first and then get together.”

Mr Bauer said the EU’s strength was more visible in long-term programmes such as development.

He described yesterday’s speech by the Moroccan King Mohamed VI announcing reforms as an indication for upcoming developments in the region. “It almost went under in the news, but this is pointing towards a significant change in the local political system.”

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