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News | Wednesday, 10 March 2010 Issue. 154

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Busuttil makes renewed appeal over Libyan-Swiss stalemate

Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil yesterday made a second appeal in two days to the European Commission to move on the diplomatic spat between Libya and Switzerland.
Addressing the European Parliament plenary debate on long-stay visas, Busuttil pointed out the irony that while the EU was granting third country nationals more rights to stay in Europe for longer stays, EU citizens were facing difficulties to travel to Libya because of the ongoing diplomatic spat between Libya and Switzerland.
“Whilst we are opening up ourselves more for EU third country nationals, and rightly so, we now have a dispute between two non-EU countries which is resulting in obstacles to free movement for our own citizens. This cannot be right and the EU should move immediately,” Busuttil said.
Turning to EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who was present for the debate, Busuttil appealed to her to intervene on the issue in view of an urgent settlement.
“I call upon you to urgently address this issue and avoid further repercussions for workers who cannot travel to Libya, for workers who are being asked to remain there until they are substituted and for companies who are risking their investments.”
Replying to Busuttil’s concerns, Malmstrom said that she was fully aware of the ongoing diplomatic dispute and that the EU was working on a diplomatic level to seek a solution.
She said that she was committed to achieve a breakthrough in the dispute as soon as possible. She promised to come back to the European Parliament to report on developments as soon as possible.
Libya and Switzerland are embroiled in a long-running diplomatic row.
The dispute dates back to 2008, when one of Mr Gaddafi’s sons was arrested in Geneva, accused of assaulting two servants.
Earlier this month, Libya stopped issuing visas to citizens from many European nations, including Malta – those in the Schengen border-free travel zone. That drew condemnation from the European Commission.
Libya’s move came after Switzerland allegedly blacklisted 188 high-ranking Libyans, denying them entry permits. The Swiss ban is said to include Mr Gaddafi and his family.
The row began after the arrest of Mr Gaddafi’s son Hannibal and his wife, Aline Skaf, in Geneva in July 2008.
They were accused of assaulting two servants while staying at a luxury hotel in the Swiss city, though the charges were later dropped.
Libya retaliated by cancelling oil supplies, withdrawing billions of dollars from Swiss banks, refusing visas to Swiss citizens and recalling some of its diplomats.
In the same month that the Gaddafis were arrested, Libyan authorities detained two Swiss businessmen, in what analysts believe was a retaliatory move.
One was finally allowed to leave the country earlier this week but the second was transferred to jail, where he faces a four-month term on immigration offences.


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