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How Libya’s Fezzan Became Europe’s New Border
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"European policymakers increasingly are looking at the Fezzan, Libya’s vast and scarcely populated south west, as their frontier against sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees traveling the Central Mediterranean route to Europe. In 2016, over 160,000 took this route from Libya on makeshift boats; most had entered through this region, which connects the country’s southern border with its coast. Several European countries, chiefly Italy, hope that stabilising the situation in the Fezzan and reviving its economy will help curb migrant flows. The idea has merit, but this will be no easy task and cannot succeed without also addressing the broader crises gripping the country. Any European effort to address governance, economic and security problems in the Fezzan should be coordinated with the internationally recognised government and linked to wider, nationwide initiatives to tackle issues that plague the country as a whole."

See: How Libya’s Fezzan Became Europe’s New Border (International Crisis Group, link). From the conclusion:

"The different political and strategic agendas that drive various European countries also need greater coordination. Today, France and Italy have taken the most active approach toward the south, each motivated by separate and at times competing priorities. Paris is concerned about the Sahel’s strategic stability not only because it has troops deployed there but also because it is an area of privileged French influence in Africa. Rome has energy interests in Libya (including in the natural gas extracted in the south) and is concerned primarily about the flow of migrants that land on its shores. The two countries have lent political and at times military backing to rival sides in the Libyan conflict (with France giving LNA forces covert military support in 2016) even as they both nominally support the UN-led diplomatic process. Tensions between Rome and Paris over their respective roadmaps for Libya’s stabilisation could spill over to the south and undermine stabilisation efforts.

Europe as a whole is motivated by the migration question, and often appears to be seeking the kind of partnerships it has implemented with countries such as Turkey, designed to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching the continent. In Libya, this is not feasible: the internationally recognised government has little implementing capability, especially in the Fezzan, where forces opposed to the Tripoli government have the upper hand. Instead, it would be wiser to exert greater diplomatic pressure on Libya’s meddling neighbours (particularly Egypt and the UAE, whose military action and aid in support of Haftar have been most disruptive), while avoiding the temptation to pick winners in local or national conflicts. At the same time, Europe should provide greater support to UN efforts to resolve the Libyan conflict, stabilise the national economy and create a negotiation track for armed actors aimed at creating a more integrated security sector."

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