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The different hidden agendas of European leaders in the battle for Libya

(BRUSSELS2) If we have often spoken of other motivations for President Sarkozy in his passion and his enthusiasm to defend the Libyan revolution and to take military action, he is not the only one to have a hidden agenda. And the apparent free-for-all that has reigned for several days at the European level hides other equally political issues among several partners, particularly German and Italian.

French side we have often commented on what underlies Sarkozy's posture: the upcoming electoral campaign (presidential 2012), the concern to forget the first hesitations in the Arab revolutions (Tunisia mainly) and the reception with great fanfare of the Libyan leader. We should also mention more strategic issues such as the promotion of French military and industrial know-how (Rafale), its place in the Atlantic Alliance and its seat on the UN Security Council, and what seems an inflection of the French politics with a more traditional return among the Gaullists towards the Arab world.

Guido Westerwelle at the last Council of EU Foreign Ministers (credit: Council of the EU)

On the German side, we can highlight the traditional caution regarding external military commitments and the constitutional obligation of the Bundestag. There is also the significant German commitment within ISAF in Afghanistan. And any collateral damage to civilians is viewed very negatively in Germany. But this is not enough to fully explain the very advanced, even aggressive, position of Guido Westerwelle, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We are also in the middle of an electoral period in Germany, with a defeat announced in the next Länder elections which could have two consequences. The ruling coalition will lose the majority in the Bundesrat (the 2nd German chamber) which has a certain power (especially in domestic matters, not for external operations). But above all, the FDP, Westerwelle's party, risks seeing its position particularly weakened if it continues to be unable to exceed the 5% mark, the bar which allows it to exist politically in Germany. The election in Baden Württemberg on March 27 will be a test. Westerwelle is therefore at stake for his political survival.

Italian side, the position is also contradictory. the cavaliere is also in the electoral campaign, the target of legal proceedings and an attitude of the Liga North, which can be described as isolationist (anti-immigrants, anti-intervention in Libya, anti-Europe). If he listened to himself, he would intervene little or not at all. At the same time, the Franco-British attitude on Libya resembles a strategic takeover bid for the country. And Italy cannot let other countries take leadership in what is and remains a former Italian colony, where the interests of the peninsula are numerous. In addition, it is about defending the position and prestige of Italy, both at the European level and at the international level… and NATO.

All this is taking place against the backdrop of discussions at NATO, notably the reduction in the number of bases, commands and personnel in the commands. the major political and strategic options are sometimes not far from more… concrete considerations.

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).