Editorial | Nurturing hope in Libya

Recovering these losses is not going to be straightforward but a glimmer of hope has risen once again over the horizon


Libya has a new presidential council and executive after a UN-sponsored Libyan forum agreed on the transition team to lead the country to national elections in December.

The decision made by the 74 members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Geneva last week was described by the UN Special Representative as another “historic moment” on the road to unification of the war-torn country.

The aim is to hold national elections across all of Libya on 24 December and unify the country that has been split between rival administrations in Tripoli and Benghazi.

The road will not be easy and a healthy dose of scepticism is more than justified. Since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has had many false starts, a situation made worse by meddling of foreign powers on either side of the divide.

This latest effort brings new hope because it was achieved by Libyans themselves. The dialogue forum brought together people from across the country’s complex social, political, tribal and economic make-up.

Libya urgently needs to de-militarise. There are simply too many weapons in the hands of private militias and individuals that makes restoring security a major priority.

Libya needs to start unifying its institutions, not least its police and army, to start bringing about a sense of security that is necessary for prosperity.

The second track is economic. The country’s divisions have wasted Libya’s potential that exists to generate prosperity for its people. Vast oil reserves cannot be tapped, the tourism potential has been buried, investment by foreign firms shackled because of uncertainty.

To achieve this will require a lot of patience, more dialogue and political support from Libya’s neighbours and key foreign powers.

Within this context, Malta’s long-held belief that solutions in Libya must be found by Libyans themselves, is of paramount importance. Malta must act as a facilitator of dialogue.

Stability and prosperity in Libya will bring about greater stability in the southern Mediterranean region.

This is one area where the EU can do much more. The recent adoption of a joint communication between the European Commission and the High Representative, proposing a new agenda for the Mediterranean is a step in the right direction.

The agenda aims to relaunch and strengthen the strategic partnership between the EU and its southern neighbourhood partners.

Under the new EU’s Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), up to €7 billion for the period 2021-2027 would be allocated to its implementation, which could mobilise up to €30 billion in private and public investment in the region in the next decade.

Malta must ensure that Libya is not overlooked by the EU in funding opportunities that will arise in the coming years.

Lasting change in Libya will happen when security returns and prosperity starts to reach people. Libyans will have to chart out their own future but the EU can do a lot to support that process.

Maltese businesses lost out when Libya descended into turmoil. Air Malta also lost a lucrative route to Tripoli because of safety concerns.

Recovering these losses is not going to be straightforward but a glimmer of hope has risen once again over the horizon.

Malta and the EU have an interest in nurturing that hope so that Libya can once again be a secure and prosperous nation.

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