Meriadec Raffray Meriadec Raffray
Journalist for 20 years, M&eac...
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Libya : "The solution is, first of all, economic". Interview with Cédric Perrin

A seagull flies in front of an oil platform in the Bouri Oilfield some 70 nautical miles north of the coast of Libya, October 5, 2017 Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

The first vice president of the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Commission in the French Senate, senator for Belfort Cédric Perrin, 44, has co-directed a report that provides an overview of the crisis in Libya. Interview by Meriadec Raffray 

At the end of the year, the conditions seemed ripe to pull Libya out of chaos. This hope now appears to show some wear and tear...

We are again faced with a highly fragmented society. Each leader is holding on to his share of the oil windfall, and is trying to exploit one of the institutions that have emerged from the reconstruction process. While the production and export of Libyan oil remains controlled by the national oil company, the traffic of crude oil has exploded. 1,500 people are holding on to 90% of the country main source of wealth. Their control is blocking the restarting of the economy, the true key to an exit from the crisis.

Emmanuel Macron calls for elections by the end of the year. Is this realistic?

The Elysée has involved itself heavily in the matter, but let's not to confuse action with communication, or speed with precipitation. Everyone – including most of the stakeholders – is convinced that the democratic path is the only viable one. On the other hand, no one agrees on the order of deployment: the writing of a constitution, the holding of a presidential election, the general election... Hope remains relevant, because 2.5 million voters have already registered.

Institutional chaos, mafia economy, immigration, terrorism... For the French interests, what is the foremost problem in Libya?

4,500 French soldiers are fighting Islamist terrorism in the Sahel: that is our top priority. To break the katiba targets' knees from under them, it is necessary to attack their logistical relays and their rearguard bases in Libya. It is necessary to encourage the population to move away from their subsidies by providing them with jobs. France and the international organizations could also address the financial money laundering channels for the gains of the rulers who confiscate oil wealth.

What about the "scourge" of immigration?

In 2016, Europe has identified 180,000 migrants from Libya. In 2017, there were nearly 160,000 of them. In 2018, the flow appears to be decreasing. During the first six months, their number has fallen to less than 15,000. There is a parallel displacement of their bases of departure towards Algeria and Morocco...

Is this the effect of the hardening of Rome – which Paris happily castigates?

Rome, a historical partner of Tripoli, has gotten wind of the French initiatives in Libya by means of the press. What's more, Paris is lecturing the new Italian government. It is, to say the least, a tad clumsy for a country with 700,000 migrants on its soil. With their backs up against the wall, their authorities have resigned to sign financial agreements with militias and organizations of people smugglers in Libya in order to regulate the flow. That is, without a doubt, reprehensible. But who else could they go to? Previously, Westerners had been paying Gaddafi to do this.

Has Brussels complicated or facilitated the work of its members bordering the Mediterranean?

In 2015, the European Union triggered the "EU Navfor Med Sofia" naval operation in response to the proliferation of wrecks of ships carrying migrants off the coast of Libya. However, the operation was confined to operate on the high seas. It refused to deploy itself to the territorial waters of the Failed State to conduct field actions against the smuggler infrastructure.

What avenues have not been sufficiently explored to help this country pull out of the crisis?

The key issue is the economy. We recommend to large French companies that they explore this market. But with the windfall from oil, they will have no problems getting paid. Many of our majors are on the case at this time. Prospecting trips have been scheduled, and then postponed for security reasons. We must persevere. Otherwise, other entities will beat us to the punch.


11/09/2018 - Any reproduction, copy, transmission or translation of this publication is prohibited.

Portrait of Cédric Perrin, first vice president of the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Commission in the French Senate DR