Germany and Libya have had formal bilateral relations since the latter gained independence in 1955. Since the revolution of 17 February 2011, the German Government has been supporting the country in its transition to democracy. Germany’s then Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and then Federal Economics Minister Philipp Rösler visited Libya in 2011 and 2012. Since July 2014, the German Embassy in Tripoli has been temporarily relocated to Tunis for security reasons. On 16 April 2016, Germany’s then Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his French counterpart at the time, Jean‑Marc Ayrault, paid a joint visit to Libya, where they held talks with a number of officials, including Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al‑Sarraj, to underscore the international community’s willingness to help bring peace and stability to the country.
Germany’s then Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel travelled to Tripoli on 8 June 2017. Libyan Prime Minister al‑Sarraj visited Berlin on 7 December 2017 for bilateral talks with Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. On 7 May 2019 he travelled to Berlin once again together with the Libyan interior and foreign ministers, where he met Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Over the past several years, the difficult security situation and the unsettled political circumstances in Libya have taken a heavy toll on the country’s economy, resulting in declining incomes, a sharp fall in the value of the Libyan dinar and a large budget deficit that has eaten away at the country’s foreign currency reserves.
Nonetheless, Libya has the potential to become an interesting market for German companies, especially in the energy, infrastructure, medical, education and vocational training sectors. That would, however, require patience and a presence in the country. In addition to the security situation, current risks include legal uncertainty as well as the dysfunctionality of the judicial system and the strictly regulated labour market.
Stabilisation, humanitarian aid and state‑building
Libya faced a fresh start following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. Forty‑two years of dictatorship – marked by repression, a lack of institutional transparency and international isolation – as well as the fighting that led to the fall of Gaddafi had left deep wounds in Libyan society. At the same time, the country had to rebuild its government infrastructure (including its security forces). Working together with the international community (the European Union and the United Nations), Germany offered Libya assistance with building democratic institutions and implementing political and economic reforms.
The key advisory body in state‑building matters is the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). In coordination with UNSMIL and members of the international community, Germany is actively supporting Libya in its efforts to rebuild state structures. It is providing targeted assistance for projects, such as those focused on controlling and disposing of weapons, on building regional structures and on developing health services, media institutions and a civil society as well as those designed to improve the situation of internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants.
Stabilisation and mediation
In 2018, funds to the tune of approximately 7.5 million euros were earmarked for the stabilisation portfolio. For 2019, measures totalling 11.5 million euros are currently planned. Priorities include supporting the UN‑mediated peace process, including strengthening the unity government’s ability to act, not least through the Stabilisation Facility for Libya, election preparation support and promotion of the rule of law; helping to bring about reconciliation between warring factions, including mediation support (e.g. the Misrata‑Tawergha agreement); and improving the protection of internally displaced persons, refugees and migrants, for which considerable funding was made available via the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) in 2017. The main components, alongside the protection of migrants in the country, include helping them to return voluntarily to their countries of origin and stabilising host communities along migration routes.
Germany is also assisting with the disposal of mines and ordnance, with measures to ensure the safe storage of weapons and ammunition and efforts to secure chemical weapons and radioactive sources. Since 2018, Germany has been helping to secure 1000 tons of highly toxic missile propellant.
Immediately after the outbreak of fighting in February 2011, Germany provided eight million euros in humanitarian aid to help alleviate the immediate suffering of those affected. In 2015 and 2016, the German Government made available 3.55 million euros and eight million euros respectively, to support humanitarian relief work carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and local organisations. The most urgent humanitarian needs include food, medical care, psychosocial assistance (especially for migrants and internally displaced persons in remote areas) and protection for refugees and internally displaced persons. In 2017, more than 25 million euros in funding were made available for UNHCR, UNICEF, ICRC and German Red Cross humanitarian assistance measures.
Germany is also helping Libya to build a civil society. Projects funded by the Federal Foreign Office in 2013 included the organisation of a major women’s conference attended by participants from all parts of Libya to promote the need for women to play a strong role in the process of drafting a new constitution. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office is supporting Libya’s participation in various regional initiatives that focus on strengthening the political participation of young people and marginalised groups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as well as on helping establish the rule of law and ensure respect for human rights. Most of Germany’s political foundations are also implementing programmes in Libya.
Culture and education
At present there are no German cultural relations and education policy representatives in Libya due to the fragile security situation. However, cooperation with Libyan partners in the area of culture, education and the media still takes place. For example, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) information centre in Tunisia provides advice for students, academics, administrators and lecturers at Libyan higher education institutions, including information on exchanges and regional cooperation programmes. Since 2016 this has taken place in cooperation with specially trained partners in the country.
Within the context of the transformation partnership, the Federal Foreign Office is promoting measures to strengthen cultural and social participation, for example by financing media projects and further training offered by the Goethe‑Institut in Tunis for Libyan cultural management professionals.