Hopes for Libya's June elections, the first in almost 50 years, tempered by worries that arms may be smuggled through its porous borders to restless neighbouring countries, were voiced by Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs at a meeting with Libya's Deputy Prime Minister, Mustafa Abushagur, on Tuesday evening.
"I do hope that the election timetable is met", said Fiorello Provera (EFD, IT), who chaired the meeting, and "women should play a prominent role in the election process", added Parliament's rapporteur on Libya, Ana Gomez (S&D, ES).
"We are sure that the Libyan public national elections are going to happen and exactly on time", replied Mr Abushagur, adding that of the three million voters registered so far, over 40% were women.
"Almost no household without a machine gun"
Many MEPs worried that with the amount of arms remaining in Libya, non-functional police forces and incomplete border control institutions conflict could quickly turn to bloodshed, there or elsewhere.
"What specific measures have been taken in order to prevent smuggling of arms to not so peaceful neighbouring countries like Mali", asked Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck (ALDE, BE).
"Almost every member of Libyan society is armed and there is almost no household without a machine gun", Mr Abushagur admitted, but added that action was already under way to ensure that arms arms are handed in to the authorities, especially in big cities
Establishing effective border controls for a 4,000 km land frontier and improving security in general was the next big challenge Libya faced, he continued, adding that the EU had already begun to help Libya with these tasks.
In the chair: Fiorello Provera (EFD, IT)