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The untenable German position. European inaction. Pale sense of shame...

Angela Merkel at the March 11 EU summit on Libya

Faced with the events taking place in Libya and the Arab world, we cannot suppress the feeling of a certain shame...

Is the lid currently closing on the Arab revolutions? It seems like it. Between the intervention of the Saudi armed forces in Bahrain against the (Shia) demonstrators, the laissez-faire of Gaddafi who bloodily suppresses his revolution, the Arab “spring” of which the first examples were praised is getting darker. “Normalization” is coming back at a gallop, helped, it must be said, by Russian reluctance and sudden American caution, the European “absence”, undermined by European divisions which we thought, however, would be consigned to the dustbin of the 'history.

The German anomaly: problematic

In Europe, there are those who wanted to go hard and fast on Libya (France and United Kingdom), those who have geographical and economic proximity and recommended a certain caution (Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, etc.), those who have a more pacifist tradition and see more of a humanitarian action (Sweden, Finland, Austria, Ireland, etc.). A fairly classic and logical diagram, all in all.

In this landscape, however, an essential “anomaly” appears: Germany, which plays a significant role in Europe's current absenteeism. It is very difficult to understand this German position which leads to a blockage in all the institutions of which it is a member (European Union, NATO, UN Security Council). Certainly there is the traditional caution with regard to external military operations, the limits provided for by the Constitution, a certain proximity (sometimes) with Russian positions,… Certainly there is also the electoral campaign underway in several Länder – which the government risks losing -, at the same time losing the majority in the Bundesrat (the second chamber of parliament).

But, all the same! We were not used to such a position, which could be described as very friendly, even complicit (stronger than Italy), towards a regime and a leader, who are still wanted for “crime against “humanity” through international justice. The current leaders, Angela Merkel and Guido Westerwelle, have not come out any better. Because they offered nothing as an alternative to the military option advocated by France and the United Kingdom. And neither does Europe…

European inaction

Europe has not, in fact, been able to offer a middle path between wait-and-see and military action. We are therefore surprised to see that she has not pursued the path of negotiation or intermediation in which she usually excels. Today, as a result, we have nothing: no special EU envoy with a country which is on its (maritime) border; no initiative for a contact group bringing together several points of view; no sending of “simultaneous” conciliation missions, nor sending of interposition missions; no proposal to deploy observers along Libya's borders, or elsewhere... Nothing! Otherwise sanctions or translations before the ICC which only have medium or long term value. Enough to give yourself a clear conscience.

The supporters of silence and “doing nothing” remained on general considerations. In the corridors of the European summit there were so many opinions justifying doing nothing: we don't really know what is happening; who is killing who? ; Is there really a massacre? ; There is a lot of manipulation on both sides; These “people from Benghazi” are not really recommendable; Etc… Scary! How can we not be ashamed today, tomorrow? Where is Europe? What is she doing ? What does she suggest?

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).