Libya: Border guard of the European Union

Imperialism wants to keep control over oil resources

The Libyan dictatorship recently became one of the European Union’s best friends. As recently as October 2010, two EU commissioners concluded a contract with Gadafi – he would get €50 million over three years to stop refugees travelling to Europe. In January of this year, the European Commission announced that Libya sought to "deepen its relations with the EU".

Libya’s frequent contact with the EU has three main reasons. Gadafi acts as the EU’s border guard against refugees from Africa, 80% of Libya’s oil is sold to EU countries, and Libya has become a big investor in the EU.

Not only Gadafi’s notorious friend, Berlusconi, is supporting the dictator to the bitter end. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt stated, "It’s not about supporting one or the other, it’s about getting stability and reasonable development".


Refugees were the main reason when the EU repealed the arms embargo with the country in 2004. Since then, the EU border guard agency, Frontex, has been in close contact with Libya. The aim was to strengthen border surveillance and also the country’s security service.

In 2007 Libya and the EU made an agreement on police cooperation “against trafficking”. The following year Italy made an agreement under which Libya must monitor the Mediterranean Sea to stop refugees. In exchange Gadafi got $5 billion, which formally was “compensation” for the period during which Libya was an Italian colony. The Italian Government was actually under pressure from EU rules, which says that every country is responsible for its own borders, to stop refugees.

In October 2010, EU commissioners Cecilia Malmstrom and Stefan Füle, from Sweden and the Czech Republic, signed the deal with Gadafi. The EU turned a blind eye to Libya’s blocking of the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the fact that Gadafi’s regime had not signed the UN Refugee Convention. Follow-up talks about this deal continued as recently as late January in Brussels.

Many refugees from Sub-Saharan Africa end up in Libya, but thousands have been caught at sea and forced back or sent back when they arrive in Italy. The result is that between 1.5 and 2 million African refugees currently live in Libya, many of them in detention camps and prisons. Conditions are appalling, with widespread racial violence.

Europe’s first summit on the revolution in Libya, on 24 and 25 February, focused on the refugees. The Italian Minister in charge warned of a human flood of "biblical proportions" after 6,000 fled from Tunisia to Lampedusa in Italy. After the EU summit, politicians spoke of "solidarity", meaning that other states have to "help" Italy to stop the anticipated flood of refugees. Leaders in responsible for a global system forcing millions to leave their home countries want to use continued repression against refugees.

Oil and trade

Libya is the world’s twelfth largest oil producer, with output of 1.6 million barrels per day in January this year. During the revolution, production has fallen by half. Oil prices have also risen to above $120 a barrel.

Many large oil companies have set up shop in Lybia, including the Italian ENI, several Chinese companies, French Total, BP and Statoil of Norway.

“Libya is Europe’s third largest supplier (and trade partner) behind Norway and Russia, covering 6.9% of total EU imports of energy”, the EU commission reported last year. “Libya occupies rank number 11 in the EU’s imports and rank number 20 in the EU’s major trade partners”.

Libya is also a big investor in Europe. The National Investment Fund Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) is said to control investments worth 70 billion dollars (460 billion). Gadafi owns part of Italian bank, UniCredit, football club Juventus, Fiat and 3% of the company that owns the world’s leading newspaper, the Financial Times. He also holds stakes in Russian and Turkish companies.

“Chaos” – Western intervention?

The hypocrisy of politicians in the West knows no bounds. First, the revolutions in North Africa and Tunisia were ignored and Western leaders hanged on to their old friends Ben Ali, Mubarak, etc., while mass struggle was described as "chaos". When these revolutions gained momentum the same politicians acted as if they had always demanded the departure of Gadafi etc.

Regarding Libya, threats of Islamism, civil war and refugee flow are used in order to justify continued interference and possible intervention by the United States and Europe.

On Monday 28 February, the EU – following in the foot steps of the US and the UN – imposed an assets freeze and travel ban on Gadafi and his family. The UN Security Council also raised the possibility of Gadafi being prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. Others, among them the British PM Cameron, are talking about blocking the Libyan air force.

Politicians in the West are exploiting and twisting the news from Libya in their own interests. They want to be portrayed as acting on behalf of “democratic opinion”. As if they only now discovered the violence of the dictatorships. This is about adapting to public opinion – and to secure continued imperialist control over the oil in the region.

For Libya’s workers and youth the task is instead to fulfill the revolution to overthrow Gadafi, build democratic committees in order to seize power and build ties with neighboring countries’ revolutions. They can not trust the EU, UN or US. Workers and youth in the West must support the revolutions and say no to imperialist intervention. This is also a struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

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March 2011