February 17, 2007
Arab unity, saved by the dinar
In the latest of Qaddafi's changes of mood, it has been decided to impose a visa to Maghrebi citizens visiting Libya among others. This is not the first violation of the agreements that guarantee freedom of movement in the Maghreb. But while violating agreements in MENA is a common sport that might have little impact in practice - most of them haven't been worth the paper they're written on since their inception - this one in particular could have seriously hurt the interests of both Tunisia and Libya itself.
It happens that Tunisia is the first investor in Libya in number of projects, and Libyan investments in Tunisia are growing extremely fast. It also happens that at least a million Tunisians and Libyans depend on those borders being open for their living, based on cross border trade. The economic ties aren't only at the state level or the common people, both "royal families" in Tunisia and Libya have been increasingly doing business together.
Thus the Leader of The Revolution decided to exempt Tunisians from the visa, rather than shooting himself in the foot.
A lesson to be learned by the proponents of Arab unity maybe.
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One of the great joys in life is dealing with Libya authorities. They're so delightfully unconcerned with such bourgeois ideas as consistency, legality, or other standards that might contradict the Guide's whim of the moment.
Afraid I can't quite explain why what normally enrages me with others, amuses me endlessly with Libyans. Maybe it's the extreme level of absurdity.
Hmmm, on that thought, Libya hasn't signed onto the Agadir accord. They should line up, and then get in place in terms of its non-application like all the other signatories.
(Although the Agadir document is useful to cite in powerpoints for investment proposals where you want to give an illusion of greater MENA integration just for the heck of it)
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 17, 2007 08:33 PM
Plus the Guide's speeches are sometimes hilarous.
Re Agadir accords, you're right. But Libya's part of the Arab Maghreb Union which guarantees freedom of movement. Freedom that AFAIK only Morocco and Tunisia haven't violated towards each other so far (unsure about Mauritania's record though). Signing the Agadir accords would just add one more cloth to wipe their noses on the pile.
What exactly is the reason for the visa thing, if there is a coherent one?
I know there's plenty of gastarbeiters (I think mostly Egyptians?) in Libya, and with oil revenues increasing they'll have no shortage of new candidates. So why not control who gets in, now that ideology has been thrown overboard anyway - is it that simple?
Posted by: alle at February 18, 2007 12:20 PM
good thing libya isn't making tunisians get visas. otherwise, where would the sfax-gabes-tripoli roadside petrol vendors get their low-octane supply?
some of my fondest memories of sfax come from hanging out in the libyan consulate, trying to convince them to give me a visa.
The official reason behind the visa is helping the EU control illegal immigration which uses Libya as a platform. Whereas there might be truth in that, reasons given by officials from other countries sound more in line with the usual Leader of The Revolution's behavior: he was angry at the lack of support to his country during the embargo, and more recently, to the creation of an African Union where he would be the president.