Det er full splittelse i EU over synet på Muammar Gaddafi og opprøret. Storbritannia har uttalt seg klarest mot Gaddafis voldsbruk, mens Italia ikke ønsker å gjøre det vanskelig for Gaddafi.
Dette til tross for at Gaddafi skal ha truet med å åpne slusene og la så mange innvandrere strømme over til Europa som bare mulig. Italia har hatt et langvarig samarbeid med Libya, om olje og gass, og ulovlig innvandring. Men det er merkelig at Italia ikke ser omdømmetapet ved å støtte Gaddafi.
Tsjekkia uttrykker seg enda mer merkelig når det sier at det vil kunne bli en katastrofe hvis Gaddafi faller.
Hungary, which currently holds the bloc’s six-month rotating presidency, told the EU ministers that it received a warning from Tripoli that Libya would end co-operation on blocking irregular immigration into the EU if Brussels did not side with Gaddafi.
Ms Ashton for her part dismissed Libya’s threat.
«We have heard threats, we hear people saying you should do this, you should do that, but in the end the EU will do what is right,» she said.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron described Tripoli’s actions as «unacceptable, counter-productive and wrong.» His foreign secretary, William Hague, encouraged other countries to denounce the regime. «The United Kingdom condemns what the Libyan government has been doing … and we look to other countries to do the same,» he said.
Germany’s EU affairs minister Werner Hoyer described his country’s «indignation» at developments: «We are watching with great concern and indignation the violence used by state authorities in Libya and in other states.»
France and Luxembourg followed suit, with French EU affairs minister Laurence Waquiez describing the repression as «completely unacceptable» and Luxembourg’s foreign minister Jean Asselborn saying he is «not afraid» of «a dictator who shoots at his own people».
On the other side of the EU divide, Italy is horrified at the possible loss of a close ally. Foreign minister and ex-EU-commissioner Franco Frattini is trying to convince other European states that Mr Gaddafi has promised constitutional reforms and that the bloc should allow him to make good. «Italy as you know is the closest neighbour of both Tunisia and Libya so we are extremely concerned about the repercussions on the migratory situation in the southern Mediterranean,» Mr Frattini told reporters on Sunday.
The previous day, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he did not want to «disturb» his long-time friend with appeals for restraint. «We are worried about everything happening there, in all the area,» he told reporters. «I haven’t yet heard from Gaddafi. The situation is evolving and so I don’t feel I should disturb anyone.»
On Sunday, Mr Frattini spoke about Gaddafi’s reform promises with US secretary of state Hilary Clinton.
He raised with her the «possibility of a reform of the constitution that could be taken up soon by the People’s Congress,» a foreign ministry statement said. Both Ms Clinton and Mr Frattini agreed on the importance «in this delicate phase, of offering signs of political solidarity,» the statement added.
The Czech Repblic has also warned against speaking out in favour of human rights in Libya.
Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg said the EU should not «get involved too much» and that high-minded EU appeals would only serve to «prove our own importance».
«If Gaddafi falls, then there will be bigger catastrophes in the world,» he told journalists in the EU capital on Sunday. «It’s no use for anyone if we intervene there loudly, just to prove our own importance.»
Det er ikke første gang Libya har truet med å åpne slusene for illegal innvandring til Europa. Så sent som i desember forsøkte Tripoli seg på ren utpressing.
German Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer said he was alarmed by Libya’s threat to stop cooperating with Europe in stemming illegal migration to the EU if Europe did not stop defending anti-government protesters.
The Libyan threat came after EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said last week that Libya should listen to what protesters were saying and «allow free expression».
Libya has frequently threatened to cancel cooperation with the EU on illegal migration in the past. In December, a minister said Libya would scale back efforts to stem the flow of migrants unless the EU paid 5 billion euros a year.