Permissible Arms

And how is your travel ban this quarter?

Posted in europe, libya by Karaka on 19 April 2010

Qadaffi says: no watches for you! Fear not, O Reader. Even during health-downturn-the-extended-remix I still kept vigilant on Qadaffi Watch 2010. By which I mean to say, March was a very special month for the Man from Libya. (April is looking pretty good too.)

In February of this year, Qadaffi called for jihad against Switzerland after its rather ridiculous and alarmingly bigoted minaret ban. This was some icing on the safra for Qadaffi, because it offered the perfect opportunity to publicly retaliate for the arrest of his son (on charges of beating his servants) in Geneva in 2008. Though Libya claimed its next action was not caused from a response to this, the country promptly detained two Swiss businessmen for over a year.

Switzerland responded by banning 188 Libyan citizens from entering Europe via its borders. Libya, in turn, said f*** that and promptly blacklisted the 25 countries (plus bonus trade embargo!) in the Schengen Area from entering its nation.

This kind of ticked the EU off. At Switzerland. (Probably at Qadaffi, too, but publicly at Switzerland.) So Switzerland dropped its ban like a hot potato, and finally, at the end of last month, Libya dropped its as well, thus more-or-less ending the 19-month bickering over whether Switzerland stepped over the line by making an alien resident of its country adhere to its laws regarding employee abuse.

The Economist has a pretty cogent rundown of events, with some additional notes about how the scuffle affects the country’s economy:

Libyans susceptible to populist slogans may have chuckled over the visa fight, but its biggest effect was to reinforce the impression that Libya is a risky place for tourists or businesspeople alike.

Such self-inflicted damage is neither occasional nor restricted to higher policy. Consider the case of an Egyptian grocer who spent years building a thriving business in Libya, then made the mistake of going home on holiday. Abrupt changes to visa rules mean he can no longer return. Earlier this year, the new manager of a hotel in Tripoli, an expatriate, fired some staff and switched suppliers. This prompted someone to make a telephone call. A sudden snap health inspection of the hotel larder revealed a few tins past their sell-by date. The manager is now in prison.

Qadaffi is the world’s longest-serving non-hereditary ruler at 41 years and counting, but if he can be so capricious in the last three months (or the last three years, for that matter) as to upset the balance of his economic and diplomatic ties to the rest of the world–after only really opening them up in the last decade–one wonders whether he veering closer to actual senility or merely overconfidence in his rule.


One Response

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  1. Alec said, on 19 April 2010 at 14:30

    Although not as quixotic as another medieval-style kingdom, North Korea, there is no honour in dealing with the Great Jamahiriya.

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