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The IFAT organised a roundtable discussion entitled “Libya: civil war, migration and terrorism”.

The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade organised a roundtable discussion on the 12th of April, 2017 entitled “Libya: civil war, migration and terrorism”. The participants – Viktor Marsai (National University of Public Service), Máté Szalai (IFAT, Corvinus University of Budapest), Tamás Szűcs (foreign policy journalist) and Péter Wagner (IFAT) – discussed the most pressing questions of the Libyan conflict, mainly through the lenses of European and Hungarian security concerns.


Tamás Szűcs started his presentation with explaining the internal dynamics of the Libyan civil war. He emphasized that the Libyan situation cannot be compared to the civil war in Syria or Yemen as it is a low intensity conflict as it causes relatively few causalities. The competition between the different groups is fought for certain key facilities (e.g. military bases or refineries) only in the border zone between them. He stressed that although the refugees reaching the shore of Europe got on board in Libya, there are only a few Libyan citizens among them. He described the situation in Libya as hopeful, although he pointed out that the local actors are not interested in putting an end to the conflict and setting up a unity government in the short term.

According to Máté Szalai, the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) in Libya can be traced back to the social context of the civil war. He identified three social groups that make up the base of IS: the already radicalised, former members of the al-Qaeda network, some tribes marginalised after the fall of the Qaddafi regime, as well as some layers of the population in the Eastern parts of the country who have traditionally been rebellious to the central authority. He believes that the battle of Sirte was the turning point in the fall of the Libyan Islamic State, due to the fact that since then, they cannot control significant territories in the country. They were forced back to the Southern regions and they are present in the country only as a network. He emphasized that the phenomenon of uncontrolled territories in the wider Mediterranean pose the greatest threat because in these areas radical groups can reappear anytime.

Viktor Marsai dealt with the migration crisis in his presentation. Reflecting to Tamás Szűcs’ speech, he underlined that unlike Libya, low-intensity conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa can lead to large-scale migration. The fall of Gaddafi only opened a door for them to Europe. The people-smuggling networks capitalised on this opportunity and they built up their relationship with different terrorist and insurgent groups. He noted that although there are more than fifty million refugees in Africa, most of them do not want to settle down in Europe. He pointed out that the recent Italian-Libyan agreement creates the possibility for the Italian authorities to send refugees back to Libya despite the unsettled nature of the civil war. However, due to the agreement, the migration pressure from the south will likely to be eased.

All three experts agreed that the division of Libya does not represent a real solution for the conflict. Although the European Union has limited interests in the country (terrorism, migration, energy market), enduring instability on the middle term would pose a constant source of threat to our continent.