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Cathy among the Benghazi rebels. Finally Europe is here! (Shift)

(credit: European Commission)

(BRUSSELS2) The European flag flies over Benghazi. And the head of European diplomacy, Cathy Ashton, arrived this Sunday (May 22) in the stronghold of the Libyan opposition, to inaugurate the EU liaison office in Libya, with the democratic opposition. A symbol.

“The EU puts its words into action”

« It is an honor to meet the people who fought for democracy and a better future for Libya » declared the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs. “ The opening of this office is an important sign of our support for the Libyan people. The EU puts its words into action ». Several meetings are planned, on this occasion with representatives of the National Transitional Council (the Libyan opposition), members of civil society and international partners.

(credit: alarabiya)

Support today and for the future

« I saw the welcome words at the airport “we have a dream ". And " I am here today to explain and be very clear about the intensity and extent of the European Union's support for the Libyan people. » declared Cathy Ashton after her meeting with Mustapha Abdul Jalil, the president of the CNT. The two interlocutors discussed a number of subjects: “ support for border management and security reform, support for the economy, health and education, support for civil society ". " This support – clarified Lady Ashton – “ is not intended to be just limited to now, it is intended to last into the future. The Libyan population must discuss the future they want. I am here – on behalf of the 27 countries of the European Union – to offer our support for your future ».

An important symbolic act, Finally!

This is a first on two counts: the EU does not have a delegation in Libya. And it has rarely opened a “technical” office – in such an official way – in a city which is not the capital of the country and is held by the opposition to a regime. It is also a “great blow”, politically, for the EU diplomatic service – quite unfairly criticized in recent weeks – and for Cathy Ashton, on a personal level, just before the meeting of the “27” foreign ministers. . Several European political leaders – the vast majority of the European Parliament in particular – had requested symbolic demonstrations from the High Representative. It is now done.

(credit: European Commission)

The office located at the Hotel Tibesti

The EU “technical liaison office” will first be located at the Tibesti hotel in the center of Benghazi, according to the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs. Where the European Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), the UN and other international agencies as well as diplomats from different governments are already located. “ We are currently in Benghazi. But as soon as it is possible, we will be present in Tripoli » specifies an EU official, thus wanting to thwart in advance any accusation of playing the game of a partition of Libya. Partition which does not seem, according to witnesses on site, to be the will of the opposition leaders.

Vehicle branding, a fundamental element of the European presence (credit: European Commission)

A preparatory team, light and discreet

An evaluation team from the diplomatic service had been on site for several days to prepare for this implementation (security, logistics, etc.). And the office's precursor team arrived in Benghazi on Thursday, under the leadership of Agostino Miozzo, director of the “crisis response” department, to open the office and prepare for the visit of the High Representative of the EU.

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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).