Divided Response to Libyan Crisis: 'The Maneuvering of EU Member States Is a Scandal'

In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, Martin Schulz, head of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, sharply criticized the way EU member states are putting national interests first over Libya. He called upon the German government to accept refugees from North Africa and warned that military intervention in Libya may be needed as a last resort.

Photo Gallery: Libya Slides into Civil War Photos
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SPIEGEL ONLINE: The situation in Libya is escalating from day to day, amid growing fears of civil war. What should the West do now?

Martin Schulz: The sanctions against (Libyan leader) Moammar Gadhafi approved by the United Nations Security Council should be implemented as soon as possible. His access to funds needs to be cut off, because he is apparently trying to buy mercenaries. We have to try to isolate Gadhafi.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Gadhafi doesn't even shy away from bombing his own people. Doesn't this raise the question of whether the West should intervene militarily?

Schulz: Gadhafi's methods are brutal. But we have to choose carefully between an emotional reaction, which is understandable, and decisions that could lead to a protracted war. All of the measures that can be taken within the context of the Charter of the United Nations must be considered. I am deliberately emphasizing the word "all" there -- in other words, including the military option. But that's only possible with the involvement of the Security Council and the Arab countries.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why?

Schulz: Military intervention without their involvement could even have the effect of strengthening Gadhafi. We recently experienced how the rebels react when foreign soldiers enter the country, when they promptly detained a British special forces unit. It's clear that whatever measures are taken will have to be coordinated with the Arab League and the African Union.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The international community has been discussing a no-fly zone for days, but so far nothing has happened. Where does this hesitancy come from?

Schulz: A no-fly zone is one way to rein in Gadhafi. It certainly makes sense, if it can be implemented. But it isn't entirely uncomplicated. I agree with the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's view that this would be a highly risky proposition.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: As was already the case with Egypt, the European Union is not taking a clear position. Has Europe failed, just as the Middle East is on the brink of a new era?

Schulz: I would appreciate it if people would use more precise language in this regard. People are always chiding "the EU," but the institutions in Brussels are taking action. The parliament is providing money and the European Commission has tripled humanitarian aid. The European Union isn't the problem.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is?

Schulz: The member states are the problem. They are pursuing interests that are sometimes widely divergent. I'm sick of these constant attacks on "the EU." The real scandal is the never-ending maneuvering of the member states. France has historic interests, and so does Britain. But Germany's game isn't any better. The German foreign minister sings the praises of the revolution, while the chancellor says: No refugees, please. None of this is credible.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why can't the EU leadership convince the member states to support a common policy?

Schulz: The EU does what it can. It provides money, and High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton is in the region. But why, exactly, are all the European Union's foreign ministers also traveling to the region, and, on top of that, saying different things? This nonsense merely creates the impression that the Europeans are not particularly credible or unified.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What else can the European Union do?

Schulz: What's completely lacking is a long-term plan to foster civil society, both in Libya and also where it is currently coming into existence, namely in Egypt and Tunisia. That should be the EU's top priority. These (civil society) bodies need money and advisers. We need to train election monitors and send them to these countries. Europe's security will be enormously enhanced if we win this fight and strengthen secular, civil society.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did Europe tolerate the Gadhafi regime for too long?

Schulz: It's hard to answer that question. We all tolerated Gadhafi, both the EU and the United States. One could criticize this as amoral, but it was also realpolitik. He renounced terrorism, which meant that one continuous source of insecurity had been pacified for the time being. And, of course, enormous energy-related interests were part of the motive behind the cooperation with Gadhafi.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The unrest in Libya has been going on for several weeks now, but Gadhafi is still there. Do you still think that the regime can be overthrown?

Schulz: I don't know how strong Gadhafi is at this point. He's a dictator who is surrounded by militias that are apparently well-trained and well-equipped. Parts of his army have abandoned him, but that doesn't seem to be enough to bring him down quickly. I think that the outcome of this power struggle is still completely open.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Large numbers of refugees are to be expected. The situation in Egypt showed how Europe reacts: It isolates itself. Is that the right signal?

Schulz: No. We have to do everything possible to prevent people from becoming refugees in the first place. There are large numbers of young people in these countries, and they are needed there. They'll stay if they have a future there, which is why it's necessary to spend a lot of money now to help these people -- through economic cooperation, educational cooperation and investment in infrastructure and civil society. Billions are needed in this regard.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But there will still be refugees.

Schulz: Yes. And we can't let them drown in the Mediterranean. We have to take them in.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does that include Germany?

Schulz: Naturally Germany, like other countries, also has to accept refugees. The southern EU countries can't do this alone. We can't sit there and welcome -- and even encourage -- revolutions in the world while banishing the results from our doorstep. That position is simply unsustainable. What we need is a quota to effectively distribute refugees among all 27 member states. Not to mention Switzerland, by the way, which constantly benefits from the EU and the dictators' funds. It could also easily accept some refugees.

Interview conducted by Veit Medick

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About Martin Schulz
AP
Martin Schulz, 55, is a foreign policy expert with Germany's center-left Social Democrats. He has been a member of the European Parliament since 1994 and the chairman of the Socialist group in the European Parliament since 2004.

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