`West’s military intervention in Libya a mistake`

In an exclusive interview, Charles Kupchan discusses Europe’s response to Arab revolt.

Whether it was in Ivory Coat or Libya, France was the country that did not only launch military strikes but also pushed the international community to take action against autocrats. The turmoil in the Middle East will have implications for the European Union.

In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses Europe’s response to Arab revolt.

Charles Kupchan is also a Professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and former director for European affairs at the National Security Council.

Kamna: France is returning to the period of Françafrique post Arab revolt. Do you agree with this?

Charles: No, I do not agree. It is true that France took the lead in the operation in the Ivory Coast and led the charge to intervene in Libya. I see these developments as part of a temporary increase in French interest in Africa, in part due to (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy`s muscle flexing. I do not see these developments as part of long-term shift in French strategy and a return to Françafrique.

Kamna: Why is Libya bigger issue for the EU than the US?

Charles: Libya is much closer to Europe than the US, and its impact -- refugees, economic spillover, political instability, potential extremism -- therefore greater for Europe. In addition, North Africa was long under European domination, and EU members still retain strong political and economic ties to the region.

Kamna: How do you rate the response of EU to Arab uprising?

Charles: I believe that the EU and the United States are correct to stay behind the curve in reacting to the Arab uprising. The events in the region need to play themselves out, and the West should tread lightly. I believe the military intervention in Libya was a mistake.

Kamna: The European Union has backed pro-democracy demonstrations in the Middle East, but it has not lent required support to the migrants fleeing the chaos in their countries. Why is it so?

Charles: Italy has taken in many refugees and aid is being delivered to refugees in the region. The question of the status of refugees in Italy and their access to other EU members remains controversial and unresolved.

Kamna: The political upheaval in North Africa brings danger as well as opportunities for Europe. How can the EU take advantage of the uprising to strengthen its ties with southern neighbours?

Charles: The EU should develop a strategy to encourage economic growth in North Africa. Improving economic and social conditions in North Africa offers the best prospects for improving stability and promoting liberalisation in the region.

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