Opinion: Germany will not lose out in race for Libyan spoils | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 15.09.2011
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Opinion: Germany will not lose out in race for Libyan spoils

The Gadhafi era is over and now world leaders are trying to win favor with the new Libya. Although Berlin was not part of the NATO mission, Deutsche Welle's Daniel Scheschkewitz says Germany has a future in Tripoli.


France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - the list of foreign leaders visiting Tripoli these days is getting ever longer. It's a race to win the favor of the new Libya - a country that successfully shook off the dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi and a country that is, thanks to oil, one of the richest in Africa.

In the past, Europeans came to Libya as colonial masters or in more recent years to meet with Gadhafi in one of his Bedouin tents. Now, Sarkozy and Cameron can present themselves as liberators. It's a triumph we shouldn't begrudge them.

Well-deserved triumph

France and Britain have shouldered the bulk of the NATO mission in Libya. Without them, the victory of the Libyan rebels over Gadhafi would not have been possible. They kept up their commitment - even in the difficult months when rebels and government mercenaries were locked in what looked like a stalemate and it was anything but sure the rebels would emerge as the winner.

Daniel Scheschkewitz

Deutsche Welle's Daniel Scheschkewitz

Sarkozy was the first who recognized the rebels' transitional council and he called for military action early on. For some time, France supplied the rebels with weapons by air. Britain also took on a significant share of the NATO mission in Gadhafi's desert empire and so Cameron too is justified in feeling good about the victory.

The two have now visited the martyrs' square in the rebel city of Benghazi. The pictures from that trip will be used in Sarkozy's upcoming election campaign and Cameron will also be happy to use the trip to divert attention from his troubles at home.

Lucrative oil contracts will be a welcome extra in return for the long and expensive military operation to help the Libyan rebels. British oil company BP has just lost a valuable contract in Russia and will now easily be able to score a new deal in Libya to make up for that setback.

Tempting future gains

Turkey's Erdogan is also in North Africa, to push for the interests of Ankara as an up-and-coming regional power. And he wants to be sure to be present while Tripoli celebrates its newfound freedom.

And Germany? Berlin too has to do its part to foster democracy and the rule of law, and support the education of young people in Libya. Germany has to help with new infrastructure and multilateratal efforts that cover the entire Northern African and Arab sphere.

It remains to be seen whether or not Germany will be at a disadvantage because of its abstention in the United Nations Security Council ahead of the military operation. German companies might not be the first choice when Libyans begin looking for new investments, but they also won't be last. Germany's know-how is too highly valued in the Arab world to simply dismiss Berlin.

Transition to democracy

After all, it's not as if Germany did nothing for the rebels - the country just did not contribute militarily. The transitional council will be aware of that and it will hopefully prevent any hard feelings in the future Libyan leadership.

Germany's particular experience with the transition from dictatorship to democracy can - certainly in the long run - be of crucial help to post-Gadhafi Libya. And if a united Europe will be helping Libya's transition towards a free and democratic future, Germany will certainly be part of this.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz / hf
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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