The Continentalist: Putting the EU Back Into the European Neighborhood

The Continentalist: Putting the EU Back Into the European Neighborhood

On July 7, for the first time since 1969, Libyans voted to elect a General National Congress as part of efforts to create a new political system after the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi last year. The elections saw 2,639 individual candidates compete for 120 seats in 69 constituencies, with 559 women making up 44 percent of the candidates registered for seats reserved for political parties. Turnout was high, with 2.8 million people -- of which 45 percent were women -- registering to vote from among the roughly 3.5 million Libyans eligible to do so. The polls, which were the country’s first nationwide election since Gadhafi’s fall, follow local elections held in several Libyan cities earlier in 2012.

Until very recently, the elections might have been considered an illustration of the transformative power of the European Union’s neighborhood policy. But after the initial failure by Europe’s “big three” -- the U.K., France and Germany -- to unite on a common military intervention in Libya (largely due to Germany’s defection), Libya instead seems like another example of a half-hearted European approach, where political and strategic claims are not yet fully in synch with reality.

The EU could have tried to assert itself as a main actor in the Mediterranean region, promoting mutually beneficial relations to open up new trade opportunities and new sources of energy and other resources. But while it has taken some constructive steps, the EU has failed to take decisive action across the region as a whole, which is why Europe is today competing for influence, in particular with Russia and China.

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