EU, NATO Set for Major Libya Role

In Brussels, diplomats and analysts said Monday that the overthrow of Col. Moammar Gadhafi offers, with the U.S. taking a back seat, a new place at the top for the EU and NATO.

“In the Balkans, it took years for the EU to take a leadership role,” Ian Lesser of the German Marshall Fund said in a phone interview. “It’s very notable that EU resources played a determining role here.”

On Sept. 1, Mr. Lesser will take over as the new director of the key think tank’s Brussels office. Libya will immediately be a top item on his agenda, he said.

NATO will “try from an institutional point of view to capture this as a success for the coalition,” said Mr. Lesser. “But there is a second phase of NATO involvement.” Just because Col. Gadhafi “is on his heels, it doesn’t mean that the potential for ongoing instability isn’t very high.”

And it is the EU, Mr. Lesser said, which “is going to feel the brunt of the pressure” of paying for rebuilding Libya.

EU officials admitted that some hard work lies ahead. “We have post-Gadhafi planning going on… we do have a number of scenarios that we have worked in terms of our assistance post-Gadhafi,” EU spokesman Michael Mann said Monday, according to Reuters.

In a statement, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that “the EU will continue to offer support and will remain a strong and committed partner for the Libyan people.”

The stakes for the EU to get it right are high. “One has to consider the possibility that it’s continuing chaos,” said Mr. Lesser. “There are groups within these rebels we would not like to see come to power.”

[Source: By John Miller, The Wall Street Journal, Brussels, 22Aug11]

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