Europe and Qaddafi : dangerous liaisons

How far will he go? That is the question when reading the latest news on Libya. On TuesdayMuammar Qaddafi celebrated its fortieth anniversary in power. Although they were imposing, it is not the celebrations organized on this occasion that received the greatest interest this week, but well the new statements made by the Colonel on the international stage.

Since a few weeks, the Libyan leader seems to take delight in stirring up trouble among European governments. Since Qaddafi has recovered a “good” reputation, the Western governments have not stop to crowd around him to take advantage of the wealth of the country. The memories of bombings and other threats coming from the former « rogue state » seem far from them. But greed always has its downside, and where some prefer to forget, as for the public opinion, it can take offense at it.

We remember the outcry provoked by Qaddafi’s visit in France a year and a half ago. Sunday, the same reaction was perceptible in Italy considering the presence of Belusconi in Tripoli to strengthen the friendship treaty between Italy and Libya. As for the release a few days earlier of the author of the Lockerbie bombing, the Libyan Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi by the Minister of the Scottish justice, it continues to this day to shake the Anglo-Saxon public opinion.

But the hardest hit so far is undoubtedly Switzerland whose President Hanz-Rudoplh Merz has completely lost face by apologizing for the arrest of Hannibal Qaddafi in July 2008 in Geneva. Sure of his return into the Libyan good graces, and sure of the release of the nationals held in Libya since last year in retaliation, the Swiss President has strongly defended his act. But two days ago, Qaddafi has not only announced that a high bail was necessary to free the two men but he also called on UN to proceed with the dismantling of Switzerland.

By observing these situations repeating themselves, it is tempting to believe that the colonel understood very well the ambiguity of the position of the European leaders, but far from smoothing things over to facilitate their work, he prefers to make it worse in order to give them a hard time. Does he want Europe to pay for all the years during which Libya was banned from the international community? The question is not so much how far the extravagant Colonel will go, but more important, how far will we let him go. It is time to set clear limits to the diatribes and excesses of the Libyan leader.


Nathalie Janne d’Othée