“If the EU continues to support the protests, Libya will stop cooperating with it on illegal immigration.” As summed up by La Repubblica, this is the brunt of the message sent from Tripoli to the Hungarian presidency of the EU on February 20. The threat is worrisome, writes the Italian daily, for “if the Libyan dam breaks, tens of thousands of Africans who are working as slaves or being held in detention centres in Libya will lead an exodus of Biblical proportions.
“For weeks now, and with the approval of local authorities, the human traffickers have been getting ready to ship thousands of migrants,” the Rome daily adds. Franco Frattini, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, “clearly hopes that Gaddafi gets back on top of the situation,” writes La Stampa. According to the minister, the riots in Libya “are not motivated by the need for freedom, as in Tunisia and Egypt, but by the desire to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state,” and therefore should not be encouraged. “The European Union has chosen to confront the regime of Colonel Gaddafi,” confirms Le Temps for its part. “Arriving in Brussels on Sunday evening [February 20] for a dinner largely devoted to the Libyan crisis, the foreign ministers of the Twenty-Seven urged the Libyan regime to meet the ‘legitimate’ aspirations of the people and to stop the bloody suppression of the protests.” Vis-à-vis Libya, the EU is “in an extremely delicate position”, the Geneva newspaper goes on.
“The outrageous behaviour of Colonel Qaddafi has strained the nerves of the Twenty-Seven for many years, as with the case of the Swiss hostages in Tripoli. But the importance of the country to energy supplies to the Union and its key role in the illegal immigration networks from Africa – thanks to its 2,000 km coastline and the 4,000 km border it shares with its six African neighbours – makes it a ticking time-bomb at the gates of Europe.” The call by Ashton in Tripoli on February 20 for “an open and meaningful dialogue” does not, however, meet with unanimity among member countries.” Italy and the Czech Republic refused to condemn Libya roundly on Sunday night – a preview of intense debate in the Twenty-Seven should the situation keep worsening,” writes Le Temps.