The February 17 Revolution in Libya has revealed policy continuities, contradictions, and constraints that present neighboring states and the transatlantic partners with challenges and opportunities. Elections for a General National Congress, which will name a new interim government, are scheduled for June 2012. The new government will rule until a constitution is approved and general elections are held in mid-2013. In the interim, the current government faces a number of challenges, including a lack of transparency, dialogue, and legitimacy. Its failure to address key issues, like integrating armed militias into a unified police and military force and articulating a framework for national reconciliation, has eroded public confidence. The rights of women and ethnic minorities are at risk, and the failure to establish a credible justice system raises questions about the government’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
With Libya unable to secure its borders anytime soon, concerns with border security explain in part policies toward Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Algeria, and Tunisia. Mediterranean states worry about Libya’s ability to secure its coastal waters, which are potential gateways to Europe for arms traffickers, terrorists, and illegal migrants. Unrest in the Sahel is fuelled by the return of heavily armed veterans of Gaddafi’s army, racist attacks against black Africans in Libya, and a refugee crisis. In northern Mali, a Tuareg independence movement has surfaced, and with thousands of refugees crossing into neighboring Niger, there is concern that the insurrection in Mali could spread to the Tuareg community in Niger. Algeria is also concerned with Mali’s inability to secure its northern territories, which provide bases for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In sub-Saharan Africa, the disruption of regional alliances and the weakening of governments long supported by the Gaddafi regime are harbingers of a policy shift away from a region in which Gaddafi lavished business projects and other forms of largess to buy influence. Early signs are that the new Libya will turn toward North Africa and the Middle East as well as to Europe to the detriment of sub-Saharan Africa.
Issue areas of transatlantic complementarity and cooperation expected to continue in post-Gaddafi Libya include energy supply, illegal migration, investment and trade, and security concerns, including terrorism. Europe will remain the principal market for Libyan hydrocarbons and is well placed to take advantage of commercial opportunities in Libya. U.S. companies will remain significant upstream players in the hydrocarbon industry, but the main concern of the United States downstream will be to avoid delivery disruptions to Europe that would have an impact on U.S. supplies elsewhere. Libya will review investments made outside the country during Gaddafi’s rule; however, absent evidence of malfeasance, it can be expected to retain those in transatlantic states that make good business sense. Immigration is a likely area of policy change that will be welcomed in Europe, as post-Gaddafi Libya will be more cooperative in restraining illegal migration. Increased instability in the Sahel is an area of concern that wider transatlantic cooperation could best address, building on U.S. initiatives in Africa to develop a joint strategy aimed at state consolidation, and suppression of illegal trafficking and terrorism. Libya also presents the transatlantic partners with an opportunity to modify a long-held strategy that generally favored stability over democracy and human rights in the Arab world. Libya is a promising candidate for democratization, but like its neighbors, it will almost certainly elect a moderate Islamic government, offering the transatlantic partners a fresh opportunity to promote democracy and human rights if they can throw off old paradigms and embrace change.