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J. Martonyi (Hungary): resolving the Libyan situation in the long term is not just a military operation

(BRUSSELS2/Interview) Before the Council of Foreign Ministers on April 12, I was able to ask a few questions to the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs (Hungary holds the presidency of the European Union), Janos Martonyi, and gather his impressions on the political and humanitarian situation in Libya. An interesting approach because it comes from a man who experienced "the other side" of the Iron Curtain, was also at the helm of Hungarian diplomacy during the country's accession to NATO and the intervention in Kosovo in 1999.

Libya seems to be in a political stalemate, what do you plan to get out of there...

The question is how to build the transition in Libya. This is a problem we have every time there is a dictatorship. In an authoritarian political regime, no well-organized opposition can form. We cannot even appreciate the notion of opposition as such (as we do in our democracies). However, it is obvious that we cannot continue to govern in the old way, without presenting a real alternative to overcome the difficulties. In this extremely complex and worrying situation, the international community has an important responsibility as do neighboring countries which have a direct interest in the stability of the region. (…) We have seen the very broad international solidarity which has just emerged in less than a month to try to curb the devastating policies and unbridled atrocities of the Gaddafi regime. We cannot speak of an impasse. But it will still take time to find the most appropriate responses, as much on a military level as on a political and social level, by involving all the actors concerned, including the Libyan opposition.

“In an authoritarian political regime,
no well-organized opposition can form”

Most Eastern countries seem reluctant about a military operation in Libya. How do you explain it? What is Hungary's position?

I don't think there is a position specific to Central and Eastern Europe on Libya. Each country in our region has an approach to this issue based on its membership of NATO or the EU, while participating in the decisions of these organizations. For Hungary, although we are not a member of the UN Security Council, our country has always supported the adoption and execution of the two Council resolutions (1970 and 1973) relating to Libya. We have also supported the NATO intervention from the start. A choice which obeys on the one hand the priority given to the protection of the Libyan population and, on the other hand, the military effectiveness which can be ensured under the leadership of NATO. We would have been happy if the Gaddafi regime had followed the Security Council resolutions of its own volition. But it became clear very early on that without a determined military intervention, bloodshed remained possible which absolutely had to be prevented.

“Without a determined military intervention,
a bloodshed remained possible which it was absolutely necessary to prevent”

You are not participating in this mission?

No express request has been addressed to us, neither in relation to the current military operations (to protect the civilian population and to force the regime to an arms embargo, as well as respect for the no-fly zone), nor for a Hungarian military contribution. It should nevertheless be emphasized that NATO took over the overall direction of the military operations. A decision taken by consensus, in which Hungary took part.

“The long-term settlement of the Libyan situation
is not limited to the military operation"

Until when to continue operations?

The mandate provided by the Security Council resolution stipulates that operations continue as long as the protection of the population makes them necessary. But we also remain aware that the settlement of the Libyan situation in the long term is not limited to the military operation. The priority is for the Libyan people to be able to take their destiny into their own hands.

You were in Egypt recently, how do you feel about the humanitarian situation in Libya?

Indeed, we must devote all our attention to the humanitarian situation, whether in Libya or in the territories bordering its borders. During my visit, I was able to note that although the humanitarian situation still remains controllable thanks to the efforts of local authorities and international organizations or NGOs working in the field. But it always turns out to be uncertain and can turn for the worst. The EU must continue to develop plans to support these humanitarian actions to protect the civilian population. This will allow, if the situation makes it necessary, to support the efforts of the UN.

Shouldn't we deploy - as we have done in other crises (Georgia, Yugoslavia) European observers to the borders of potentially fragile countries (Niger, Sudan, Tunisia) in order to observe the situation, prevent possible slippages?

The question of the deployment of European Union observers has not yet arisen concretely. But why not. The Union continues to pursue consultations with international partners (NB: the African Union) as well as with countries in the region. And it is on this basis that we can make decisions on the form of our further action.

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).