Can the EU rely on Libya in the refugee crisis?

The EU wants to limit migration from Northern Africa by intensifying cooperation with Libya. Stepped-up controls of the Libyan coastline are to dissuade refugees from crossing the Mediterranean and encourage them to remain at reception centres in the country, the heads of state and government resolved at their meeting in Malta. An agreement with an unstable state will achieve nothing, commentators stress, and see Moscow taking a leading role.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Putin getting involved again

Moscow's desire to get involved in Libya won't make things any easier for the EU, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung fears:

“Russia, which seems to be taking a liking to the role of risk investor in failed states, now also has a Libya plan. This is another clever move by Putin. He has already taken control of the Syrian scenario, which is of utmost importance for Europe. Now he is aiming for the second-largest gate of immigration to the EU, which also has plenty of oil and gas to boot. Will the Europeans soon be forced to travel to Moscow to secure their borders? The price they are paying for their past mistakes and their present lack of consensus is growing higher and higher.”

Kaleva (FI) /

Libya a problematic partner

It will take more than an agreement with an unstable country to stem immigration from North Africa, Kaleva warns:

“The big problem with the deal is that Libya is divided. In the capital, Tripoli, the government accepted by the UN rules, but the oil-rich areas in the east are controlled by General Khalifa Haftar. The fact that Russia is strengthening its ties with Haftar only makes it more difficult to bring the refugee problem under control. … In the EU, concerns have already been voiced that Russia, together with its ally, could try to keep up the flow of immigrants to Europe to cause new problems for the Union. A solution is also made more complicated by the fact that the prospects for young people in many African states are poor. Reducing the pressure of migration will require decades of work. It will take far more than an emergency aid package for Libya.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Breakthrough on Malta would do Europe good

Rome has done effective groundwork with its binational agreement with Tripoli - and now the EU must follow suit, La Stampa believes:

“For the first time Italy received a concession yesterday from the Libyan prime minister that the country aims to bring the flood of refugees under control. We don't know how successful Fayez al-Sarraj will be in honouring this promise. He asked Italy for help on Libyan soil, exposing himself to accusations of making secret post-colonial deals. Italy will not refuse its help, but it needs Europe at its side. ... For the EU, its credibility is at stake, not only on the question of refugees but also as regards the stability and security of the Mediterranean. ... The support of Fayes al-Sarraj would also improve the image of the EU, something it badly needs. It would make a success of the meeting in Malta on the eve of the Brexit debacle.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Without solution for refugees EU won't survive

The EU should develop a common refugee policy before addressing other problems, Jyllands-Posten urges in the run-up to the EU summit in Malta:

“With all the challenges the EU faces, it may seem almost impossible to find a place to start. Nevertheless the EU member countries would do best to begin with immigration. Getting a grip on this issue could be more decisive for the future of the EU than Trump's lack of commitment. ... If Europe wants to be strong enough to stand on its own two feet, its leaders must find a solution that combines the strengthening of external borders and a common strategy for immigrants who are already in Europe. If they can't, the voters will turn away from Europe. Putin will be delighted and Donald Tusk can close down shop, because that'll be the end of the line.”

Večer (SI) /

Human rights falling like dominoes

The refugee crisis has revealed the sad truth that the EU is not a political union but a community of interests, writes Večer:

“The EU functions as long as its members, above all the bigger and more powerful ones, benefit from a common economic area. But as soon as the member states have to share the burden in overcoming crises, the EU shows no mercy or solidarity with the peripheral states. The worst affected peripheral countries can only expect to receive a little small change so that they keep the problem, in this case the refugees, to themselves. This means that Italy, Greece and other countries along the Balkan route are dependent on the favourable or unfavourable turns events take. … As long as this stays like this the achievements of civilisation in the area of human rights will topple over like dominoes on European soil.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

Pact with Libya a crazy idea

Under no circumstances should refugees be sent back to the crisis-ridden North African state, the Malta Independent rails:

“The possibility that the EU will seriously consider returning migrants to Libya is an enormous concern given the grave human rights violations they would face upon return, violations they believed they had escaped - only to have be turned back to Libyan shores to face them once again. The suggestion that the EU might get around international law and send people back to face abuse in Libya should be a non-starter. If legal means were to be found to send these people back, it would nevertheless be a gross violation of basic decency, and it would betray the values on which the EU itself was built.”

Bild (DE) /

Germany a model of cynicism

In view of its own cynical refugee deal with Turkey the German government can hardly criticise the new US president, Bild comments:

“Turkey has sealed off its border with Syria so that the victims of the Assad regime no longer have anywhere to escape to. Those who try to flee Syria and seek refuge in safe Turkey are shot at the border installations. This is the 'entry ban' that our German government has negotiated. Those in Germany who claim that Trump's order is endangering human lives should remember all the damage Germany's policy has been doing for months. Chancellor Angela Merkel, German president-in-waiting Steinmeier and new foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel personally negotiated and pushed through Germany's entry ban. And for those affected it is far more threatening than any order Trump has issued so far.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

EU needs strong ties with Africa

Such deals with Libya are highly unrealistic and far less desirable than other measures, De Volkskrant believes:

“Libya is a failed state without a central authority, in which various militias fight each other for supremacy. What's more, as they're the ones guarding the internment camps, these militias do a thriving business with the people smugglers. Even the coastguard sees this as a welcome source of income. ... Without effective surveillance of its southern borders, the EU won't be able to control the flow of migrants. ... The EU wants to initiate a sweeping Africa policy, and to fight the causes of economic migration with the help of a well-stocked Africa fund. ... Good relations with Africa also include allowing Africa access to European agricultural markets. EU blockades must be dismantled. If that can be put into effect on Malta it would be a true breakthrough.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Berlin sees southern Europe as unimportant

As long as Germany shows no interest in the Libya problem or southern Europe in general a solution won't be forthcoming, historian Ernesto Galli della Loggia writes in Corriere della Sera:

“For Germany the Mediterranean is clearly just a burdensome obstacle on its triumphant economic march. … Germany has absolutely no understanding of Mediterranean's role, and its attitude is not free of a certain anthropological contempt; it is incapable of understanding the crucial importance of this geopolitical and maritime limes for Europe's cultural and historical foundation and thus for the project of turning Europe into an authentic political subject. And for precisely this reason Germany cannot be the true powerhouse of the EU.”