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Economics first: Ahmed Maiteeq's approach to the Libyan unity is working

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Amid the fiasco of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which failed to form an interim government in divided Libya, the result of talks Wednesday between economic institutions representing the two sides to the conflict was an unexpected success, Bloomberg reported.

Stephany Williams, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN and current head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) recognized Tuesday that LPDF went to impasse as talks since November failed to form interim authorities in the country. The only result was an established date for new elections in December 2021.

As Williams noted, the UN was forced to set up an advisory committee to bridge the differences between participants in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.

On Wednesday, however, encouraging news came from Switzerland. Representatives from the two branches of the Central Bank of Libya (one in Tobruk and the other in Tripoli), the Audit Bureau, the Ministry of Finance and the National Oil Corporation agreed to merge the banking institutions and define a single exchange rate.

Stephanie Williams said in a statement that "now is the moment for all Libyans - particularly the country's political actors - to demonstrate similar courage, determination and leadership to put aside their personal interests and overcome their differences for the sake of the Libyan people in order to restore the country's sovereignty and the democratic legitimacy of its institutions".

Thus, she in fact recognized that the only successful road to the peace in Libya lies within the framework defined not by external actors but Libyans themselves, as negotiations on the Libyan economy started from the bold initiative of Ahmed Maiteeq the Vice Prime Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

LPDF on the contrary was the mere initiative of Williams herself and was heavily criticized by many Libyan actors.

Maiteeq's approach

One of the main outcomes of the year 2020 was the new start of the peace process in Libya. Beginning with negotiations in Moscow in January 2020 and a full-scale international conference in Berlin, the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict continued with the Cairo Declaration in June. Finally in August the parties to the conflict: the Government of National Accord  (GNA) in Tripoli and the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar reached a ceasefire.

However, an initiative by Ahmed Maiteeq has given a decisive impetus to the peace process. In September he reached an agreement with Khalifa Haftar to resume Libya's oil exports and establish a joint committee, representatives of both sides of the conflict, to oversee the fair distribution of oil export revenues.

At the time, Ahmed Maiteeq was criticized by a number of GNA figures. The Chairman of the High Council of State Khalid al-Mishri even tried to denounce it. The time has shown that Maiteeq’s approach was correct. His initiative made it possible to relaunch the Libyan economy, to begin solving the urgent problems that concerned all the inhabitants of the country without exception, to create the prerequisites for stable and sustainable development and to cure the wounds of war. His approach was inclusive (nobody else in GNA did not want to spoke with Haftar) and pragmatic.

Thus, the Maiteeq-Haftar agreement was also the first real step to unite the country. It was it that made it possible to realize the unification of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, divided by parties to the conflict in November 2020. The current agreement to unify the financial institutions is only a logical consequence of the September agreement, since oil is the main source of income in Libya.

The efforts of Ahmed Maitig have been recognized internationally. As the recent report of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) says:

"On the economy's side, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeq has continued to seek solutions to build on the relative success of the agreement to reopen Libyan oil assets struck with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in September. Over the past month, Maiteeq has tried to connect officials from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the eastern-based Interim Government in order to pursue the resumption of an economic reform program, with the imperative of unifying the country's financial institutions."

The path to peace

It is noteworthy that, amid the squabbling of politicians who cannot agree among themselves, Libya's economic institutions are proving remarkably contractual. This observation alone shows that the solution to the Libyan crisis lies largely in the economic realm. Economic agreements are a prerequisite for the normalization of political relations.

On the other hand, political will is needed to push through economic agreements. Thus, the success of the peace process in Libya will largely depend on which politicians will play the main role: pragmatists interested in unifying the country or Islamists ideologically irreconcilable with their opponents.

Ahmed Maiteeq is considered to be a pragmatist, ideologically neutral politician with close ties to Libyan business. In addition, he is considered one of the main contenders for the position of the future Prime Minister. On 1 December, while participating in Mediterranean Dialogues forum, Maiteeq reiterated his willingness to lead the next government if Libyans choose him.

If he, or someone like him, is given more power, the peace process in Libya is likely to gain new momentum, boosting confidence among all Libyans regardless their political affiliations.

EU

‘Right to disconnect’ should be an EU-wide fundamental right, MEPs say 

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Always on’ culture poses serious risks, MEPs say ©Deagreez/Adobe Stock  

The European Parliament calls for an EU law that grants workers the right to digitally disconnect from work without facing negative repercussions. In their legislative initiative that passed with 472 votes in favour, 126 against and 83 abstentions, MEPs call on the Commission to propose a law that enables those who work digitally to disconnect outside their working hours. It should also establish minimum requirements for remote working and clarify working conditions, hours and rest periods.

The increase in digital resources being used for work purposes has resulted in an ‘always on’ culture, which has a negative impact on the work-life balance of employees, MEPs say. Although working from home has been instrumental in helping safeguard employment and business during the COVID-19 crisis, the combination of long working hours and higher demands also leads to more cases of anxiety, depression, burnout and other mental and physical health issues.

MEPs consider the right to disconnect a fundamental right that allows workers to refrain from engaging in work-related tasks – such as phone calls, emails and other digital communication – outside working hours. This includes holidays and other forms of leave. Member states are encouraged to take all necessary measures to allow workers to exercise this right, including via collective agreements between social partners. They should ensure that workers will not be subjected to discrimination, criticism, dismissal, or other adverse actions by employers.

“We cannot abandon millions of European workers who are exhausted by the pressure to be always 'on' and overly long working hours. Now is the moment to stand by their side and give them what they deserve: the right to disconnect. This is vital for our mental and physical health. It is time to update worker’s rights so that they correspond to the new realities of the digital age,” rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT) said after the vote.

Background

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has increased by almost 30%. This figure is expected to remain high or even increase. Research by Eurofound shows that people who work regularly from home are more than twice as likely to surpass the maximum of 48 working hours per week, compared to those working on their employer’s premises. Almost 30% of those working from home report working in their free time every day or several times a week, compared to less than 5% of office workers.

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Brexit

Scottish government comment on efforts to stay in Erasmus

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Minsters have welcomed the support of around 150 MEPs who have asked the European Commission to explore how Scotland could continue to take part in the popular Erasmus exchange programme. The move comes a week after Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead held productive talks with Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth Commissioner Mariya Gabriel to explore the idea. Until last year, over 2,000 Scottish students, staff and learners took part in the scheme annually, with Scotland attracting proportionally more Erasmus participants from across Europe - and sending more in the other direction - than any other country in the UK.

Lochhead said: “Losing Erasmus is huge blow for the thousands of Scottish students, community groups and adult learners - from all demographic backgrounds - who can no longer live, study or work in Europe.“It also closes the door for people to come to Scotland on Erasmus to experience our country and culture and it is heartening to see that loss of opportunity recognised by the 145 MEPs from across Europe who want Scotland’s place in Erasmus to continue. I am grateful to Terry Reintke and other MEPs for their efforts and thank them for extending the hand of friendship and solidarity to Scotland’s young people. I sincerely hope we can succeed.

“I have already had a virtual meeting with Commissioner Gabriel. We agreed that withdrawing from Erasmus is highly regrettable and we will continue to explore with the EU how to maximize Scotland’s continued engagement with the programme. I have also spoken with my Welsh Government counterpart and agreed to keep in close contact.”

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EU

Leaders agree on new ‘dark red’ zones for high-risk COVID areas

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At a special meeting of European heads of government, to discuss the rise of infection rates across Europe and the emergence of new, more contagious variants, leaders agreed that the situation warranted the utmost caution and agreed on a new category of ‘dark red zone’ for high-risk areas.

The new category would indicate that the virus was circulating at a very high level. People traveling from dark red areas could be required to do a test before departure, as well as to undergo quarantine after arrival. Non-essential travel in or out of these areas would be strongly discouraged.

The EU has underlined that it is anxious to keep the single market functioning especially concerning the movement of essential workers and goods, von der Leyen described this as of the “utmost importance”. 

The approval of vaccinations and the start of roll-out is encouraging but it is understood that further vigilance is needed. Some states which are more dependent on tourism called for the use of vaccination certificates as a way to open up travel. The leaders debated the use a common approach and agreed that the vaccination document should be seen as a medical document, rather than a travel document - at this stage. Von der Leyen said: “We will discuss the suitability of a common approach to certification.”

Member states agreed to a Council recommendation setting a common framework for the use of rapid antigen tests and the mutual recognition of COVID-19 test results across the EU. The mutual recognition of test results for SARS-CoV2 infection carried by certified health bodies should help facilitate cross-border movement and cross-border contact tracing.

The common list of appropriate COVID-19 rapid antigen tests should be flexible enough for addition, or removal, of those tests whose efficacy is impacted by COVID-19 mutations.

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