The European Union hopes to establish a free trade agreement with Libya. This was revealed to by Denmark’s Foreign Minister, Villy . . .[restrict]Søvndal, during a lighting 12-hour visit to Tripoli on Monday. He was in Libya to open a new Danish embassy in the capital.
Denmark currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU. As such, Søvndal is very much involved in directing EU foreign policy.
“We want free trade agreements with Libya,” he said.
Speaking to the Libya Herald before leaving for the airport to fly back to Copenhagen, he also described what was happening in Libya as “fantastic”. “Schools are reopening, markets are busy, streets are full of life,” he said. The government was “trying the best it can”, he added, praising the NTC’s timeframe for elections as “very ambitious”.
The challenges are “obvious”, he said, “but the progress is obvious too”.
He was keen to stress the support Denmark had provided during last year’s events. “We were part of the coalition helping protect the Libyan people against attacks from Qaddafi,” he said. “We participated from the beginning to the end [of the NATO campaign].”
Søvndal also stressed Denmark’s involvement since then. “We are here with de-mining groups. We are here supporting the rehabilitation of torture victims.” Denmark, he added, was also supporting the development of a free media and monitoring elections.
Danish companies, too, were actively doing business in Libya he noted, specifically singling out the Danish shipping company Maersk and the industrial corporation FLSmidth. “We want even more trade partnerships with Libya,” he said.
During the brief trip, Villy Søvndal had separate talks with NCT chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib, Labour Minister Mustafa Rujbani and with the head of the UN Special Mission in Libya, Ian Martin.
In a brief respite from formal meetings, he also met with representatives of four Libyan civil society organisations in a downtown Tripoli café. One of the those present, Nader Elhamessi of the group To Bright Future, said he was “very impressed” with the minister’s interest in what was happening in Libya as well as his willingness to meet with them in an ordinary Tripoli location.
Søvndal has been Denmark’s foreign minister for just four months. The Socialist People’s Party which he leads is one of the three parties in the centre-left coalition that won Denmark’s general election in September. In his home country, he is seen as a charismatic and popular figure.