- German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder today started his three-day visit to Libya and Algeria with an aim of "supporting the efforts of stabilisation in this region." A delegation of German businessmen follows Mr Schröder to Libya and Algeria as Germany hopes to achieve "a new start in bilateral ties" between Berlin and Tripoli, according to the Chancellor's Office.
Mr Schröder follows in the footsteps of several European leaders when he today is received by Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi in Tripoli. Spain's ex-Prime Minister José María Aznar broke the ice with his visit last year, before EU and US sanctions had been lifted. He was followed by British PM Tony Blair and Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi this year, and preparations are made for French President Jacques Chirac to go to Tripoli.
Ties between Germany and Tripoli had been especially difficult to bridge given the Libyan terrorist attack on the Berlin discotheque 'La Belle' in 1986, which killed three and wounded 231 persons. Libya recently paid a large compensation for the bomb attack. According to the Berlin government, Mr Schröder's "visit to Libya is a new start in bilateral ties that has been made possible by the solution of the 'La Belle' issue."
- It is now the aim to normalise bilateral relations, the German Chancellor's Office said in a statement today. In addition to the solution of the 'La Belle' case, "Libya's renunciation of weapons of mass destruction and the departure from supporting terrorist groups" had been vital to Berlin before deciding to re-establish normal ties with Tripoli.
The German Chancellor today departed for the Tripoli airport, where he is received with military honours by Colonel Ghaddafi. Talks are planned at a government banquette this evening and tomorrow evening, at a more formal setting. Talks between Mr Schröder and Mr Ghaddafi were to concentrate on "efforts to stabilise the region", the fight against terrorism, economic reforms and modernisation in Libya.
Economic issues are high on the agenda, according to the German government. Libyan reforms are currently opening up the country to the world market. At these crossroads, it was important to tie Libya up in the so-called "Barcelona Process" of creating a common market between the European Union (EU), North Africa and the Middle East to "create peace, stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean region."
Also German investments in Libya are a high priority for Chancellor Schröder, who left Berlin with "a high ranking business delegation, which is put together of reputed middle-sized companies and representatives from large companies." The German business leaders are to meet with Colonel Ghaddafi and together with Mr Schröder take part in an economic forum to be presented investment projects. The Chancellor also will inaugurate an oil well operated by a German company.
On Friday afternoon, after talks with Colonel Ghaddafi, Mr Schröder jets on to neighbouring Algeria, where he will be received by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika at Algiers airport. Also here, German business relations will be at the focus of the talks. Chancellor Schröder and President Bouteflika on Saturday are to participate at an Algerian-German business forum, which aims at promoting investments and trade.
Algeria already is one of Germany's major economic partners in North Africa, being among the top-ten oil suppliers of the German market. German exports to Algeria are diverse but mainly include industrial products. Trade between Germany and Algeria has dropped somewhat during the last years, a trend which the two state leaders hope to turn.
While Libya still only has an observatory status in the "Barcelona Process", ties between Algeria and the EU are already profound. Algeria has a privileged market access to the 25 European countries forming the EU. By 2010, the EU-Mediterranean region is to become one free market zone, at least for those countries managing to reform their trade policies sufficiently by that date.
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