It’s make-or-break time for Libya | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 29.02.2012
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It’s make-or-break time for Libya

After visiting Libya on the recent anniversary of the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi, the Greens' foreign policy spokeswomen in the EU Parliament urges Europe to do more to prevent Libya from sliding into extremism.

Franziska Brantner is the foreign affairs spokesperson for Germany's Greens in the European Parliament.

After a first visit in September 2011 I came back to Libya to witness a country that is facing tremendous challenges but is also impatient and full of hope to build a new Libya after more than four decades of dictatorship.

The international community is bound to help them in this endeavour, but EU support is yet slow to get off the ground and too bureaucratic.

Compared to my last visit in September, the presence of militias in the city has gone down considerably. However there are still sporadic shootings and clashes. The most important thing now is to not fall back into revenge and old patterns.

This requires clear political announcements and the establishment of rule of law. However giving young men and women a new perspective through training, work or integration into the army or police is as least as important.

Reform and train security forces

The security forces must of course be reformed so that they can properly perform their duties. The EU can help this process through education and training. It is unlikely that the young men will hand in their weapons just like that, without new personal perspectives, without a functioning police force, and without a political process.

The planned elections will show to what extent the political process is progressing and whether it will be possible to combine all forces, or if the country will instead move toward a split.

Many of the elements needed in rebuilding their state the Libyans will be able to shop for abroad, however not the political process and reconciliation. I am confident that the first elections that will start the constitutional process will take place in June as foreseen.

Tough test for women

Everyone knows that the political vacuum can not last any longer without becoming potentially dangerous.120 out of 200 members will be elected directly, which will counterbalance the lack of party structures, but it also makes it more difficult for women.

The opportunities for women to be elected directly are considered to be extremely low. For the election lists there is a sort of quota for women and men, but much will depend on the size of the constituencies, and on the exact interpretation and application of the electoral law.

But the Libyan women are very committed and motivated, they all want to go to the polls and many women's organizations are set up now in order to support women as candidates. If in the end 10 women are elected, the Libyan women's rights organizations would be proud.

Libya is a very religious country, but not a fanatic one. The Muslim Brotherhood is likely to become a major force, but not the only decisive factor.

More help for civil society

Within the framework of the UN, the EU is responsible for border management as well as building civil society, including women's rights and media. But precisely in empowering civil society actors and supporting women's rights activists, the EU is doing too little too slow.

I have met men and women full of hope who started great initiatives, including for transparency in the oil sector and for women's rights. We have to stand by their side, and do so fast, in a non-bureaucratic way, in Arabic, and also outside the large cities. So far, the EU has done nothing of that. What the Libyans want are not large sums of money, but often small amounts, training, expertise and contacts.

Libya is facing tremendous challenges and the next months will determine if it will embark on a path of transformation toward democracy, rule of law and human rights; or if it will slide into division and fundamentalist extremism. While the Libyans are and should be in full control of this transition, we are called upon to provide all the help we can and do so fast, comprehensively and with determination.

Editor: Michael Knigge/Rob Mudge

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