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A Transatlantic Perspective on the Future of Libya


The February 17 Revolution in Libya has revealed policy continuities, contradictions, and constraints that present neighboring states and the transatlantic partners with challenges and opportunities. Elections for a General National Congress, which will name a new interim government, are scheduled for June 2012. The new government will rule until a constitution is approved and general elections are held in mid-2013. In the interim, the current government faces a number of challenges, including a lack of transparency, dialogue, and legitimacy. With Libya unable to secure its borders anytime soon, concerns with border security explain in part policies toward Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, and Tunisia. Mediterranean states worry about Libya’s ability to secure its coastal waters, which are potential gateways to Europe for arms traffickers, terrorists, and illegal migrants. Unrest in the Sahel is fueled by the return of heavily armed veterans of Gaddafi’s army, racist attacks against black Africans in Libya, and a refugee crisis. In sub-Saharan Africa, the disruption of regional alliances and the weakening of governments long supported by the Gaddafi regime are harbingers of a policy shift away from a region in which Gaddafi lavished business projects and other forms of largess to buy influence. Early signs are that the new Libya will turn toward North Africa and the Middle East as well as to Europe to the detriment of sub-Saharan Africa. Issue areas of transatlantic complementarity and cooperation expected to continue in post-Gaddafi Libya include energy supply, illegal migration, investment and trade, and security concerns, including terrorism. Increased instability in the Sahel is an area of concern that wider transatlantic cooperation could best address, building on U.S. initiatives in Africa to develop a joint strategy aimed at state consolidation, and suppression of illegal trafficking and terrorism.

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