Canan Atilgan / Veronika Ertl / Simon Engelkes


What does Libya’s future look like in the face of these manifold political, economic and social challenges as well as the latest political developments?

Despite international support, the Government of National Accord under al-Sarraj has not been able either to guarantee the country security or to build up support within the population.

Instead, Haftar has consolidated his territorial control and ensured security for the people, brought oil fields under his control and consolidated his demands for legitimacy. Initially anxious to marginalise Haftar, the international community increasingly finds itself in a situation that makes his inclusion in the political process unavoidable. Haftar has won acceptance in Europe with his credo of “Stability instead of chaos” and his fight against IS.

If the plan that al-Sarraj and Haftar agreed on in July in Paris can actually be implemented in this form, the de facto failed unity government – and the two other rival governments – would be superseded by elections at the start of 2018. The demobilisation of the numerous armed factions would be carried out based on the agreed ceasefire. However, the chances of success of this agreement remain low – the potential losses for

diverse groups are too great, who, in the absence of strong national structures, have appropriated territorial, economic and political control and are prepared to defend this. In addition, an agreement between the two largest warring factions, the GNA and Haftar, does not appear to be inclusive enough to serve as a point of departure for a comprehensive peace and transition process, and would once again mean the exclusion of a broad spectrum of relevant actors.

An alternative to this is a more in-depth and inclusive renegotiation of the LPA that, alongside the political process, also involves key questions surrounding the organisation of the security sector and the allocation of financial resources; and which includes all the important actors.

In the context of the weakness of the UN mission in Libya, there ensues a key role for regional actors such as Tunisia and Algeria to lead such negotiations. The risk of a renewed escalation of the conflicts in Libya and the serious consequences of instability on these countries, also provide a clear incentive to take on such a role.

At the same time, the involvement of regional and international actors in the context of political and territorial fragmentation in Libya is associated with numerous risks. In the absence of a strong central government, their support of various groups and warring factions led to significant power shifts that have contributed to further conflicts and fractionalisation, impeding the peace process as a result.

Any strategy for Libya by external actors should take these risks into account if a further escalation is to be prevented and the stabilisation of Libya is to be made possible.

What Libya needs is a solution for the fragile to non-existent state monopoly on the legitimate use of force that, through the continuing instability, enables the spread of extremist factions and trafficking and smuggling networks, which destabilise the Mediterranean region beyond the borders of Libya itself.

A solution of this kind can only be created through an inclusive transition process that establishes a viable power balance between Libyan actors. In order to facilitate effective support for this type of process, the approaches of international actors must be broadened beyond the current focus on migration and terrorism, and enable the construction of stronger state structures.

While Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have contributed significantly to shifting the balance of power in the favour of Haftar, the EU and its member states – too preoccupied with controlling migration flows – appear to be left without a long-term strategy regarding Libya’s future.

The fact is, however, that short-term policies fail to go beyond treating the symptoms. This is also true in terms of the uncontrolled migration from the Sahel to Libya. Libya must become a nation-state again. It is therefore imperative that the European states come to a consensus on the priorities, goals and partners in Libya and show greater engagement.


Dr. Canan Atilgan is Head of the Regional Programme for Political Dialogue Southern Mediterranean of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung based in Tunis, Tunisia.

Veronika Ertl is Research Associate at the Regional Programme for Political Dialogue Southern Mediterranean of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung based in Tunis, Tunisia.

Simon Engelkes is Project Coordinator at the Regional Programme for Political Dialogue Southern Mediterranean of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung based in Tunis, Tunisia.


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