The EU wants to cooperate with Libya to keep out illegal African migrants - but it has brushed aside Gaddafi's 5 billion euro price tag. Every year thousands leave the shores of North Africa, bound for Europe.
Every year thousands try to migrate illegally from Libya to Europe
The European Commission dismissed on Wednesday Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's 5-billion euro ($6.3 billion) price tag to putting a halt to the flow of Europe-bound illegal migration through his country.
The Commission "recognizes that there is great scope to develop cooperation with Libya on all migration-related issues," said spokesman Matthew Newman. He added, however, that "much can be achieved jointly with far less amounts than those invoked by Colonel Gadhafi."
Gadhafi said on a visit to Rome this week that Libya wanted 5 billion euros to reduce the flow of migrants, warning that the alternative was what he called a "black Europe."
"Tomorrow, Europe might no longer be European and even black as there are millions [of Africans] who want to come in," Gadhafi said Tuesday during a conference alongside Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Gadhafi played to European fears of being overrun by migrants
"We don't know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans," he added.´
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini responded Tuesday that Gadhafi's proposal should be discussed at the upcoming November summit of European Union and African Union leaders in Libya.
"Gadhafi was making an argument which all the other Arab leaders in North Africa have made, which is that they don't want to be the gendarmes of Europe," Frattini told reporters at a conference in Rome.
Also on his trip to Italy, Gadhafi provoked reaction from several political and religious leaders with his remarks that "Islam should become the religion of all of Europe."
Europe already cooperating with Libya
The EU is currently negotiating a partnership agreement with Libya aimed at keeping out illegal migrants and has already spent 50 million euros on pilot projects aimed to improve Libya's handling of migrants.
Every year, thousands of people try to evade border controls to reach Europe from Africa, often traveling in small boats or crammed aboard larger vessels. Many die at sea.
Libya has previously signed an agreement with Italy under which Libya takes back illegal migrants suspected by the Italian navy of trying to enter from Libyan ports.
The accord has triggered accusations that Rome is turning a blind eye to human rights concerns.
Author: David Levitz (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler