Libya, EU see first partnership pact this year

* Agreement could boost trade, curb illegal migrants

* Libya a lucrative source of revenue for EU firms

* Bloc soon to open first embassy in Tripoli

* EU-Libya spat over visas now resolved

By Salah Sarrar

TRIPOLI, May 11 (BestGrowthStock) – Officials from the European
Union and Libya said they were on track to sign their first
cooperation pact this year, cementing ties that bring EU
countries lucrative trade and help control illegal immigration.

The EU lifted sanctions on energy exporter Libya in 2004
after the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, renounced illegal
weapons programmes, but the bloc still has no formal relations
and no representative mission in Libya.

Diplomatic ties suffered a setback earlier this year when
Tripoli, angered that Switzerland was barring entry to senior
Libyans including members of Gaddafi’s family, stopped issuing
visas to most Europeans, but that row has since been resolved.

The so-called Association Agreement under negotiation
between Libya and the EU will create a legal framework which
could eventually lead to free trade and more cooperation on
stemming the flow of illegal migrants from Africa to Europe.

“Some chapters related to trade are still under discussion
and probably the agreement will be signed before the end of this
year,” Mohamed Siala, Secretary for Cooperation at the Libyan
Foreign Ministry, told Reuters.

An EU envoy said the next round of talks on the agreement
would be early next month. “We hope to finalize it maybe by the
end of the year,” said Adrianus Koetsenruijter, head of the
bloc’s delegation to neighbouring Tunisia.

The ambassador also told Reuters the EU would for the first
time set up a diplomatic mission in Libya, and that he expected
it to be open before the end of the year.

“Since we have started to establish for the first time
relations between the EU and Libya, we need to have a presence
on the spot, an embassy in fact of the EU,” he said.

“That always takes a bit of time to decide but I just
finalised an agreement on establishing such an office here,” he
said on a visit to the Libyan capital.

TRADE PARTNER

Energy exporter Libya has become a major source of revenue
for European firms. For a factbox on EU-Libyan trade ties, click
on [ID:nLDE61G1MR]

Italy’s ENI (ENI.MI: ) and Spain’s Repsol (REP.MC: ) are big
players in the oil and gas sector while aerospace firm EADS
(EAD.PA: ) has sold aircraft to Libya.

Libya’s sovereign wealth fund has invested in European
companies, with a focus on former colonial power Italy. It has a
stake in Italy’s second biggest bank, Unicredit (CRDI.MI: ) and a
small share in carmaker Fiat (FIA.MI: ).

EU states and especially Italy also rely on Libya’s police
and coastguard to apprehend migrants, most of them from
sub-Saharan Africa, who try in large numbers to cross the
Mediterranean and enter Europe illegally.

Libya’s decision to stop issuing visas to most European
citizens was linked to a row with Switzerland that began in 2008
when Gaddafi’s son Hannibal was arrested in Geneva on charges —
which were later dropped — of mistreating two employees.

Tripoli started issuing visas again after the EU lifted
travel restrictions on Libyans and expressed its regret over the
affair. Libya’s Foreign Minister said after the EU’s climb-down
that ties were back to normal. [ID:nLDE62R05C]

Investing Research

(Editing by Christian Lowe and Giles Elgood)

Libya, EU see first partnership pact this year