The Libyan Political Agreement signed in Skhirat, Morocco, on July 12 is the first significant result of the UN-sponsored negotiations on the crisis in Libya. After nine months of intense diplomatic activity, the UN Special Representative Bernardino León succeeded in bringing together most of the Libyan representatives involved in the talks on the formation of a new national unity government to relaunch the domestic political process and address the collapsed security situation. The agreement envisages the designation of a new prime minister and two deputies, making up the presidential council, and of a council of ministers. The House of Representatives has been recognized as the legitimate legislative body and will be complemented by a state council with consultative powers. Both the government and the parliament will be in office for a transitional period of one year to lead the country to new general elections and the final approval of an inclusive constitution. At the same time, they will be called on to put an end to the conflicts engulfing Libya since the fall of the old dictatorial regime at the end of 2011.
The fact that no stabilization and reconstruction plan was implemented to set the energy-rich North African country on the right path in the post-Qaddafi era, precluded the consolidation of a central authority able to prevent the proliferation of terrorist groups, militias, and criminal syndicates, altogether being the makers of human and arms trafficking, illegal immigration, and the refugee emergency. Following the elections on June 25, 2014, a coalition of mainly Islamist-leaning militias named “Libya Dawn” took over the capital Tripoli, in the region of Tripolitania, and reinstated the old General National Congress (GNC), questioning the outcome of the elections which was unfavorable to them and forcing the internationally recognized government and House of Representatives to leave to Tobruk in Cyrenaica. The ensuing internecine strife and division of the country enhanced the security vacuum until the rise of militants affiliated to ISIS. Further, Libya’s fragmentation has been exacerbated by the continued feuds in the desert south-western region of Fezzan, where different rival tribes are vying for power and the state has de facto no foothold, leaving the borders unchecked and in the hands of smugglers and radical armed groups.
So it comes as no surprise that, after four years of turmoil and violence, the humanitarian costs of the crisis have reached gigantic proportions. In the first semester of 2015, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of internally displaced persons almost doubled from 230.000 in September 2014 to 430.000, while the number of migrants departing from Libya to reach Italy, Greece, and Malta rose to 137.000 (83 per cent more) and the death toll in the Mediterranean has tripled (1.867). Against this backdrop, the unity government will have to lay the groundwork for Libya’s stabilization and reconstruction. The Libyan Political Agreement provides a platform to restart a national project with the constructive engagement of all the stakeholders committed to the institution building process for the establishment of a fully sovereign central state. The agreement has been endorsed by a vast majority, including the National Forces Alliance, the main party in the House of Representatives, leaders from Misurata, Zintan, and other relevant localities, independent figures, women, and representatives from the civil society. In parallel, important settlements have already been crafted between tribes and cities outside the UN negotiations, and other deals and arrangements are about to be achieved at the local level.
Nevertheless, there is still a major stumbling block to get past before reaching the national reconciliation and setting up a unity government. Despite that the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement reflect the outcome of the last elections, GNC has rebuffed it on the grounds that no true powers have been granted to the state council, which is supposed to be composed mainly by GNC members. The decision to reject the accord was taken by GNC speaker, Nuri Abu Sahmein, on behalf of the hardliners in the congress and the militias chiefs. His rejection, though, has not been shared by the whole GNC, as representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Justice and Construction Party (JCP) were present in Skhirat and initialed the Libyan Political Agreement.
EUROPE, ISIS, AND THE MILITIAS
The JCP alignment is the result of the ever shifting regional dynamics, but also of the increasing international pressure. In particular, Europe seems more and more worried about ISIS growing stronger in Libya. The Libyan ISIS chapter was founded in Derna by extremist militants who took over the city in October 2014. They pledged their allegiance to the caliphate and their ranks were bolstered by Libyan militants returning from Syria and Iraq, and by foreign fighters of other nationalities. However, the use of the same flag does not prove the existence of a strategic unity with the powerhouse in Raqqa and Mosul. In many cases, the decision to identify with ISIS might have been merely opportunistic due to the current attractiveness of its brand. Even local chieftains and criminals joined in, but just in order to remain relevant in their territories as opposed to competing organizations or factions. That may cause conflicts of interests with the more ideologized elements, but so far the lack of a total internal cohesiveness has been outweighed by the gains achieved on the ground.
Although it has recently been dislodged from Derna (after clashes with local rivals associated to al-Qaeda), ISIS still retains control of Sirte, Qaddafi’s birthplace, and the adjacent coastal area, where training camps has been established. Exploiting the porous borders with Libya’s neighboring countries, it has forged good connections with ISIS affiliates and other terrorist groups in Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, and is an active part of the vast smuggling networks across North Africa. If it is not effectively countered soon, it will coopt or subdue the local population and other militias and terrorist groups, extending its rule over the Libyan ports, oil and gas fields; it will attract more foreign fighters from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and become as powerful as in Syria and Iraq, destabilizing the entire region, Europe included. There is a mounting concern that from Cyrenaica, where its stronghold is situated, ISIS could even succeed to open a corridor through the unruly Fezzan into bordering Niger and Chad, and become the master of the illicit trafficking revolving around the area and pointing towards the Mediterranean.
To fill the security vacuum and prevent an ISIS outbreak in Libya, a political settlement on a next unity government could no longer be postponed. Eventually, the ISIS threat urged the various Libyan factions to transcend political differences and coalesce around the legal institutions, having found a new common ground in the fight against terrorism. The broad consensus on the Libyan Political Agreement highlighted the isolation of GNC hardliners, who fear to be set aside in the new political course and forced to forgo their weapons and status. Their standpoint, though, cannot be disregarded. “Libya Dawn” militias control Tripoli and can prevent the future unity government from operating in the capital. Hence, giving more prerogatives to the state council will probably be necessary to get the support of the hardliners and keep the JCP members who signed the accord in Skhirat engaged with the prospect of important political and institutional assignments.
Nevertheless, GNC will not be allowed to buy more time with other schemes and tactics. The individual sanctions that the EU might be poised to inflict on militia leaders in Tripoli signify that attempts to undermine the internal peace deal will not be tolerated. The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni has even hinted at the possibility that the Libyan Central Bank could stop funding “those elements that continue to oppose the process” promoted by the UN (at present, the Libyan Central Bank distributes endowments to all parties). On the other hand, rumors that sanctions might be imposed also on General Khalifa Haftar, the chief of staff of the regular army who launched “Operation Dignity” to counter “Libya Dawn”, suggest that the EU prefers the appointment of a new military leadership agreed on with GNC.
If GNC hardliners maintain a rejectionist attitude, the conflict between Tripoli and Tobruk will likely escalate and the fight against terrorism will risk to slide in the background. But the persistent polarization will only meet the interests of those forces seeking to keep Libya unstable and without a strong central State. To confront ISIS and other terrorist groups, such as Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, unity is essential, or else Libya will definitely turn into a new and even more dangerous outpost for terrorist groups located in the Mediterranean at the doorstep of Europe. To avert this scenario time is of the essence and a new national unity government must be ushered in shortly and without more hindrance and delays. León’s term in office will expire in September and this deadline should function as a catalyst for a rapid actualization of the Libyan Political Agreement, although the mandate of the UN Special Representative is expected to be extended being his diplomatic efforts close to fruition.
Besides the endorsement of all relevant Libyan stakeholders, the unity government will have to count on a strong regional and international backing since its inception. The challenges lying ahead are complex and interconnected. They go beyond the security sector, encompassing the socio-economic and cultural domains, and no Libyan government will be able to face them alone. In this regard, Europe should be ready to play a primary role in supporting Libya's stabilization and reconstruction. After NATO-led operation Unified Protector, which was instrumental to the success of the 2011 Libyan revolution, Europe did not assume its responsibilities in its southern neighborhood, despite the United States being less prone to an active engagement in the Mediterranean. The European strategic absence, especially by those countries that pushed the most for Qaddafi’s fall (France and the UK), heavily contributed to the chaos Libya plunged into. But Libya should no longer be left at the mercy of terrorism and illicit trafficking, and Europe has the interest and the duty to complete its unfinished mission therein. Indeed, the implementation of a comprehensive medium-long term strategy is needed to enable the Libyan institutions to restore the basic security conditions, ensure good governance and the territorial integrity of the country, revive the economy, and pursue Libya’s integration in the region and the international community.
Libya’s stabilization is also a crucial test for the principles of Euro-Atlantic solidarity and cooperative security in the Mediterranean. Supporting Libya in eradicating ISIS and the other terrorist groups is now a priority and, provided the birth of the unity government, special forces from major European countries (Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Germany, and France) and the United States are set to be deployed with counter-terrorism tasks, as an extension in Libya of the anti-ISIS operations carried out in Syria and Iraq.
Nevertheless, the responsibility to confront terrorism in Libya lies chiefly with the Libyan army. As observed by León, the division and fragmentation of the country let ISIS take root and gain ground, preventing the development of a coordinated policy to combat it. Therefore, the work of rebuilding the Libyan security and defense sector must start from the set-up of a unified army, with a unified command and control structure, and a unified counter-terrorism strategy that takes into account also Fezzan to the south-west. Only a unified Libyan army, in cooperation with Libya’s regional and international partners, would be able to effectively cope with ISIS and guarantee a more efficient action as to border controls, human and arms trafficking, and illegal immigration.
To meet the objective of a unified army, the disarmament and demobilization of militias, and the integration of their former members into the military and other state bodies, including the police, are mandatory steps for the national unity government. In the past four years, the militias have always refused to disarm and let their men join the military as regular soldiers and not as members of militia units. This time a greater cooperation by GNC is essential to induce the militias to surrender their weapons and pledge allegiance to the legal institutions. In this context, Europe must play its role, taking a firm stance against the spoilers who oppose a unified Libyan military. Should the militias continue not to cooperate, the first solution is not a new international military intervention, but to make sure that the army will be strong enough to carry out the task of disarming them. This leads to the embargo issue.
To date, the legitimate government in Tobruk has been denied arms supplies according to a UN resolution, which was actually conceived to be applied to Qaddafi’s regime during the revolution. Avoiding a further militarization of the internal conflict is the reason explaining the denial, but the embargo must cease with the upcoming unity government. If the embargo will not be lifted, the militias will be encouraged to raise their claims and to continue their attacks without disarming. If having a Libyan unified army is the common goal, a credible and robust military instrument must be developed, and endowed with the proper equipment and capabilities to quell the militias and defeat ISIS and the other terrorist groups.
Bolstering the Libyan army also requires substantial training, as repeatedly advocated by Libyan officials. In this field, the presence of a single political and military interlocutor would facilitate the involvement and cooperation of the international security organizations. NATO would provide its added value by conducting programs tailored to the Libyan army’s demands, especially on counter-terrorism against ISIS, in the footsteps of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, upon request of the Libyan government, NATO could deliver a Defense Capacity Building Package (DCPB), including measures of support in priority areas identified in consultation with the Libyan military. The DCBP is part of the Defense Capacity Building Initiative launched at the NATO Summit in Wales. A package has already been agreed on by NATO and Iraq, and comprises: advice on security sector reform; countering improvised explosive devices and explosive ordnance disposal; de-mining; civil military and civil emergency planning; cyber defense; military medicine and medical assistance; military training.
In the same vein, the EU could resume its training programs on border management and control (via the civilian mission EUBAM, EU Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission) and for police officers, according to the guidelines of the Political Framework for a Crisis Approach in Libya. EU-financed training programs under the Common Security and Defense Policy were conducted with the Libyan Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense in 2012 and 2013, but the resumption of hostilities limited the possibility to operate in the country and led to the suspension of most of the projects and the drastic curtailment of activities. The same applies to the programs of the UN mission headed by León (UNSMIL, UN Support Mission in Libya), but the finalization of the Libyan Political Agreement could revitalize its role in the security and defense sector. To optimize efforts and achievements, UNSMIL, NATO, and the EU should integrate their approaches and renewed engagement in Libya into a framework of concerted programs and objectives, favoring the involvement of the OSCE and the African Union too.
A strong and advanced backing to Libya’s stabilization could also be provided by the creation of a UN rapid “Intervention Brigade” on the model of the UN peacekeeping operation in Congo (MONUSCO, United Nations Organization Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo). In 2013, the Security Council Resolution 2098 authorized the establishment of an Intervention Brigade to operate under the MONUSCO Force Commander with the mandate “to take all necessary measures” in order to secure “the protection of civilians” and for “neutralizing armed groups”. Precisely, the Intervention Brigade is requested both to “ensure, within its area of operations, effective protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, including civilians gathered in displaced and refugee camps, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders, in the context of violence emerging from any of the parties engaged in the conflict, and mitigate the risk to civilians before, during and after any military operation”, and to “carry out targeted offensive operations […] to prevent the expansion of all armed groups, neutralize these groups, and to disarm them in order to contribute to the objective of reducing the threat posed by armed groups on state authority and civilian security […] and to make space for stabilization activities”.
The MONUSCO Intervention Brigade consists of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one special force and reconnaissance company, with a 19.815 troop ceiling. It is sustained by funds allocated by the UN Peacebuilding Fund relating to the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which was created in 2005 by the General Assembly and the Security Council to support stabilization and reconstruction efforts in countries emerging from conflict. The mandate of the MONUSCO Intervention Brigade has been extended two times and will expire on 31 March 2016 (Resolution 2211). The tasks of the MONUSCO Intervention Brigade fit to the Libyan scenario and the set-up of an Intervention Brigade for Libya tied to UNSMIL would be an effective deterrent towards those factions and groups jeopardizing the stabilization and peace consolidation efforts of the Libyan government and army.
IMMIGRATION AND BORDER SECURITY
The implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement would facilitate cooperation on the immigration issue as well. An official agreement between the new national unity government and the EU could allow the latter to use the Libyan waters and airspace to thwart the human smugglers and the flow of illegal migrants, preventing terrorists from ISIS and other groups to set foot in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean on the migrant boats. Above all, surveillance should be improved on the coastline in Tripolitania where the boats usually depart from, coastline which is currently under the control of the militias. So far, Operation Triton, conducted by Frontex, has been confined to intelligence gathering and rescue at sea, and with the launch of EUNAVFOR Mediterranean last May, the EU has outlined the framework for expanding the tasks and scope of its maritime engagement off the Libyan shores.
Pending an official agreement with Libya, for the time being also EUNAVFOR Mediterranean is limited to surveillance and assessment, but further prerogatives has been envisaged for the mission, such as the seizure of migrant boats before the use and the apprehension of traffickers and smugglers, to be carried out through the deployment of vessels and aircraft by EU countries. If an agreement is signed with Libyan authorities, the EU will likely have to seek its approval at the UN Security Council in order to obtain the green light by Russia and China to a possible use of force under chapter 7 of the UN charter.
However, Libya is just the terminal of a long chain of human trafficking that originates in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan and Horn of Africa. To stop the migrant emergency, major interventions to improve border controls should be planned in Libya’s neglected south-west and neighboring Niger and Chad, where facilities to host the migrants on site could be set up. France is actually stationing in both African countries with two military bases, respectively in Madama, 100 km from the Libyan border, and in the capital N’djamena. The French presence has mainly counter-terrorism purposes to thwart the linkage between terrorist groups and arms traffickers in Libya and their counterparts in Nigeria and Mali, the latter being the first country to have suffered from the spread of the Libyan instability in 2012. A better cooperation in border controls with Libya is expected to be delivered by Sudan too.
The border issue also concerns Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, which have been experiencing heavy terrorist infiltrations and arms trafficking from the Libyan territory. The 168 km-long wall the Tunisian government is constructing alongside the border with Libya is testimony to the high level of alert in place after the Bardo and Sousse terrorist attacks executed by militants trained in Libyan ISIS camps. Algeria has just announced that is about to reopen its 1.000 km-long border with Libya (twice as much as Tunisia) after the deployment of over 1.500 new vehicles to step up controls. The border crossings were closed in May 2014, but the flow of militants and smuggling was not halted. Dozens of Algerians have joined ISIS or other terrorist groups in Libya, or transited to other countries from there. The notorious Algerian terrorist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, senior figure of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and one of the perpetrators of the 2013 attack on the Amenas gas plant in Algeria, was killed in Libya by a US drone strike last June.
The Egyptian border with Libya is also 1.000 km-long. This is a straight line separating western Egypt from Cyrenaica, which is key to Cairo’s strategic depth as well as security and energy interests in Libya. To help the Egyptian government prevent terrorists and traffickers from filtering through the border and contributing to add more fuel to the fire of the domestic instability, the United States is ready to procure a sophisticated surveillance system aimed at bolstering the Egyptian detection capabilities on border security, especially in unpatrolled areas.
THE ROLE OF EGYPT AND ITALY
The rise of ISIS has favored an alignment of security interests between Libya’s neighboring states and, in a broader perspective, between them and the West. In this regard, the strategic role of Egypt and Italy is standing out as pivotal for a major cooperative security effort aimed at Libya’s stabilization.
Owing to its profound knowledge of the complex internal dynamics in Libya, Egypt is a unique asset to rely on for addressing the crisis. The current Egyptian leadership, together with the United Arab Emirates, has firmly endorsed the Libyan legitimate institutions and moderate forces facing the militias and extremist factions that have caused the disruption of the political process and the division of the country, favored by the competition of regional powers. The continuity with the fight against terrorism in Sinai and the rest of Egypt, due to the local ISIS and al-Qaeda offshoots and the strife with the Muslim Brotherhood, prompted the Egyptian government to offer a valuable support to the Libyan army and to intervene directly to strike ISIS and other terrorist groups in Libya. Last February, the shelling of ISIS positions in reaction to the beheading of Egyptian Christians near Sirte intended to be a wake up call to the international community, and mainly to the West, about the nature and the goals of the ISIS threat (three Christians from Egypt, Nigeria, and Ghana have recently been abducted by ISIS again in Sirte environs).
The Egyptian support will be essential to the deployment of anti-ISIS special forces in Libya, and it is probably in this view that the US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cairo on August 2. His meeting with the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi marked the realignment of the United States and Egypt after four years of tense relations. Kerry highlighted the shared interests between the two countries on regional security and counter-terrorism, confirming Washington’s intention to strengthen border cooperation, deliver the promised F-16 fighter jets (as part of a rich package of military aids against terrorism), and procure significant American investments to boost the economy. The US rapprochement with Cairo also aims to offset the increasing ties between Russia and Egypt. During a meeting held in Moscow in early May, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and al-Sisi agreed to enhance cooperation in the military, economic, and civil nuclear fields, and that preludes to a possible involvement of Moscow in furthering Libya’s stabilization.
The role of Egypt in Libya is complemented by Italy’s one on the northern side of the Mediterranean. Similarly to Egypt, Italy is very well acquainted with Libya's features, given their historical close relations. The terrorist attack at the Italian consulate in Cairo on July 12, claimed by an ISIS offshoot in Sinai, was likely intended to target the Italian government backing of the Egyptian leadership and the commitment of the two countries to the success of the UN negotiations for the formation of a new national unity government in Libya.
Italy has been affected by Libya’s instability far more than other European countries. It is still the first Libya’s energy and trade partner, but both the oil-gas imports and the import-export of goods have drastically dropped over the past four years of crisis. In addition, because of the geographical proximity, Italy has been overwhelmed by the refugee and illegal immigration emergencies in the Mediterranean, without receiving the due solidarity by the fellow EU member states. The fear that terrorists hiding among the migrants could penetrate into the country has grown in conjunction with ISIS appearance in Libya, which placed Italy atop its target-list from the very beginning. The reiterated threat of conquering Rome could plausibly turn into action by carrying out terrorist attacks on Italian soil in view of the 2016 Jubilee, or hitting Italian objectives abroad.
The likelihood that ISIS will use the Gardabya airport near Sirte as a launchpad for missiles directed to Italy is still considered far from materializing, but this is a threat that cannot be neglected should ISIS be allowed to grow in strength and military capabilities such as in Syria and Iraq. To display deterrence and solidarity among NATO allies, Italy could call for a meeting of the North Atlantic Council as per the article 4 of the Washington Treaty (in recent years, this article has been invoked three times by Turkey). Such a meeting will permit the discussion on the security scenario in Libya and the possibility of taking counter-measures, like the deployment of Patriots missiles in defense of the Italian territory. That the Italian security interests are at stake in Libya has been confirmed on July 19 by the abduction of four Italian construction workers next to an oil and gas complex in Mellitah, west of Tripoli. The authors and the motives of the abduction are still unknown officially, but the overall circumstances of the capture may sound as a warning to Italy’s presence in the Libyan energy sector as a consequence of the Italian support to the legitimate government in Tobruk and the UN negotiations. To be noted is that off the coast of Mellitah it lies the strategic junction of a network of fiber optic undersea cables for data transmission linking Europe and the United States. The cables extend into the Italian territory for 8.000 km and are of strategic interest to the country.
Facing an ever more critical situation in Libya, the Italian government is finally assuming an increasingly proactive posture and its leading role would be decisive to advance the stabilization of the country. Gentiloni’s participation in the meeting held in Algiers on July 30-31 between Léon and GNC representatives, including Abu Sahmein, signals the relevant contribution Italy is providing to maintain solid the consensus behind the Libyan Political Agreement and to facilitate the involvement of the whole GNC in the political process towards a new national unity government. On August 6, in a phone conversation Gentiloni and the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry “shared coincident views on the importance to reconvene the parties as soon as possible to advance the intra-Libyan talks, with the goal to address the remaining nodes and reinforce the negotiating process”.
The very same day, the Italian Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti represented Italy in the inaugural ceremony of the new Suez Canal. Security-wise, Italy is expected to deploy in Libya the largest contingent of troops among the anti-ISIS special forces and to take the lead of training programs for the Libyan military. So far, Italy remains the only country to have successfully completed the training of hundreds of Libyan officers. Moreover, Italy is hosting the operational headquarters of EUNAVFOR Mediterranean and continues to shoulder most of the burden and responsibilities in handling the refugee emergency, especially of the rescue of migrants at sea.
RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT
Libya’s stabilization is also dependent on the success of the reconstruction. Security cooperation must be complemented by economic cooperation to address those social factors feeding instability. Due to unemployment and lack of opportunities for the youth, Libya’s successor generation is an easy prey for militias, terrorist and criminal groups, but restarting socio-economic development would remove the breeding ground that extremists exploit for indoctrination and recruitment. In this endeavor, Italy and the United Arab Emirates appear be the best suited Libya’s partners in the Mediterranean-Gulf area to assist the next national unity government to outline and implement a specific “road map” for the reconstruction and economic recovery of the country. The “road map” could be promoted through the “Friends of Libya” international group.
Libya’s reconstruction calls into question the international organizations. Through its various specialized agencies, the UN will have the primary responsibility to sustain the country in meeting its development goals. At the same time, a major role is expected to be played by a more effective EU Neighborhood Policy and its partnership programs. The downfall of the Libyan political and security situation has halted the realization of the EU projects also in the social, economic, and cultural spheres. The Political Framework for a Crisis Approach illustrates the relevant non-security areas of cooperation that the EU had envisaged for Libya: humanitarian assistance to the internally displaced persons, improvement of health and educational services, empowerment of civil society, protection of human rights (with a particular attention on women, children, and religious minorities), young people’s active citizenship and economic integration, judiciary reform and democratic governance. A new unity government would be an opportunity to relaunch the EU partnership with Libya in addressing the civilian aspects of the reconstruction. Since no Association Agreement has been signed yet, Libya could not access soon to all the instruments of the EU Neighborhood Policy, but it would be eligible for programs in the aforementioned fields.
The fact that the partnership between EU and Libya would begin afresh offers the former a chance for improving its approach to cooperation in its southern neighborhood. Despite the huge amount of funding invested, the Barcelona process and the EU Neighborhood Policy did fail to address the escalating political, economic, social, and cultural factors of instability in the countries of the Mediterranean and Middle East region, as proved by the outburst of the Arab Spring phenomenon. Therefore, the EU should make sure that the projects that will be implemented in Libya will have a concrete impact at the grassroots level, multiplying the avenues of opportunities for the youth of all strata of society in order for them to complete their human development. The antidotes to extremism, smuggling, and the “militia culture” are education and labor, and the EU partnership programs should effectively back the new Libyan unity government to thwart radicalization in schools, places of worship, and media, and create jobs and entrepreneurial activities for the Libyan successor generation. In this endeavor, Libya could also be supported by the projects of the Union for the Mediterranean and the Arab League.
On the other hand, contrary to the other crisis situations, Libya has its own assets to make the reconstruction self-sustainable in the long term. Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa, including vast and underexplored oil and gas fields in Fezzan, although the domestic instability and the blocking of ports have caused a drastic drop in terms of production and exports. The fall of oil prices further depleted the energy revenues, bringing to their knees the Libyan oil-based economy and the population. Resuming the oil production will be essential to initiate the reconstruction and the Italian ENI, the only foreign oil company to operate in Libya today, has the skills to drive the relaunch of the Libyan energy sector in a more stable environment, building upon its traditional privileged positions in the country. The financial resources of the Libyan Central Bank are another remarkable asset for the reconstruction, but the existence of two administrations and the unceasing state of warfare has almost halved the available reserves. At this rate, according to the International Monetary Fund, the reserves may run out within the next five years.
Thus, taking the path to stabilization is a vital demand for Libya to make the best use of its own wealth for the reconstruction. However, Libya also needs to bring about substantial changes to the economic organization inherited by Qaddafi’s era, when it used to rely on a rentier economy. Nowadays, the diversification of the production activities and the creation of a thriving market economy, by shoring up agriculture, the small-medium enterprises, and the infrastructure sector, are fundamental to generating enduring prosperity and new jobs for the Libyan youth.
THE FUTURE OF LIBYA
Léon has convened the next round of talks on August 10 in Geneva. This is to be regarded as the sign of a constructive atmosphere, which may be conducive to the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement. The Gulf Cooperation Council, together with the United States, urged the GNC to rejoin the talks and this is illustrative of the ongoing regional and international realignment underpinning the political process and the UN negotiations. Nevertheless, no matter how extensive and effective the regional and international support will be: the key to the success of Libya’s stabilization and reconstruction mainly lies in the hands of the Libyan people.
If all the diverse groups of the Libyan multifalgaceted society come to ensure their enduring commitment to the authority of the state and the legitimate institutions, including the military, Libya will be able to gradually stand on its feet and overcome the challenges ahead, first and foremost the fight against terrorism. The forces identifying with political Islam hold an even greater responsibility. Their positive contribution in consolidating the rules and the ethos of democracy, and countering extremism and radicalization, will be crucial for the future of Libya. The national unity government which is expected to emerge from the UN negotiations, represents a unique opportunity to favor the dialogue between political and cultural forces with different backgrounds, and their encounter on a shared vision of the Libyan society of tomorrow.