Representatives from more than 30 countries and multilateral organizations, including my country, will meet in Paris today to discuss how to assist in Libya's democratic transition process. With the Gadhafi regime still in its death throes, analysts and pundits are already scrambling to identify the winners and losers of Operation Unified Protector. It is unfortunate that so many commentaries should be pointing to one or another of the Western powers as being the real winner. In fact, some are even suggesting that the new Libya has become the theater of a fierce competition among Western powers jockeying for the acquisition of economic and political advantage. All these analyses are missing the point.
The conflict in Libya has produced only one winner, and that winner is the Libyan people, whose courage has allowed the country to rid itself of one of the bloodiest tyrannies in the world. This has come at a heavy human cost, with over 20,000 people slain by Gadhafi's forces. The international community's assistance has been crucial, but nothing could have been achieved without the determination of the millions of people who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for freedom and democracy. These are the people whom the international community has a moral duty to continue to help.
Italy has been one of the countries most heavily engaged in the Libyan mission militarily, diplomatically and from a humanitarian standpoint. The friendship between Italy and the Libyan people has deep historical roots. Italy is the only former colonial power to have officially apologized to its erstwhile colony—a gesture highly appreciated by the Libyan people. Moreover, the two countries' geographical proximity has led to strong interdependence between them in both economic and security terms. Thus Italy has a particularly strong interest in Libya being a democratic success.
The Italian government's vision for the management of the post-Gadhafi transition is based on three main principles: ownership, international cohesion and long-term engagement.
First, respect for Libyan ownership. The international community must avoid adopting a patronizing attitude towards Libya. The country's political future can and should be decided by the Libyan people alone. This is also true when it comes to the crucial issue of security. The terms of a limited international presence for the immediate post-Gadhafi period should be considered together and with the full participation of the Transitional National Council.
Naturally, ownership must be accompanied by the new Libyan leadership's self-responsibility and democratic accountability toward the Libyan people and the international community. We trust that the TNC leaders—on the basis of the recently announced "road map"—will effectively promote an inclusive political process leading to the adoption of a democratic constitution that evinces respect for human rights, for a state governed by the rule of law and for democratic elections. Gadhafi's trial before the International Criminal Court for crimes committed after Feb. 15 would be the best international calling card for the new Libyan leadership.
Second, it is absolutely crucial that the international community, under the U.N.'s leading role, should maintain its internal cohesion and unity of purpose in assisting Libya's recovery and democratic transition. The spirit of inclusiveness and positive cooperation between the U.S., Europe and the Arab countries that has been established in the Contact Group over the past six months must be preserved in the post-Gadhafi phase. The U.N. should unfreeze Libyan assets and address the Libyan people's humanitarian needs as a matter of absolute priority.
Third, the international community should develop a holistic vision of its engagement by establishing a "long-term partnership" with Libya. The democracy-building process will not have run its course simply with the adoption of a new constitution and the organization of an election. A successful transition to democracy is going to require both long-term international assistance in building up properly functioning institutions, and a huge effort in the training of security forces, public administration cadres and business managers.
We should also find the right way to seriously engage the new Libyan civil society. In turn, the new Libyan leaders should take care to avoid falling into the errors made with "de-Baathification" in Iraq, acting instead to unite as many people as possible under the common banner of democracy.
Trans-Atlantic solidarity has been a crucial factor to secure the success of Operation Unified Protector. Libya, however, is not Afghanistan. Europe, more than others, has particularly high stakes in the success of the Libyan transition process. A democratic Libya living in harmony with its neighbors—especially with Egypt and Tunisia, which are also undergoing their own democratic transition processes and have already recognized the TNC—could become a launching pad for a Euro-Mediterranean compact based on democracy, common security and economic interdependence.
This is an opportunity that the EU and European states should waste no time in seizing, their first move being promptly to reopen their embassies in Tripoli. The EU should also do the heavy lifting when it comes to supporting the institution-building process in Libya and appoint an Ambassador/Head of Delegation who can effectively coordinate European efforts on the ground. Libya's success will be a telling tale of whether or not Europe's hour has finally come.