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EU trade relations with Libya. Facts, figures and latest developments.

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Trade relations between the European Union and Libya have been marked by the country’s long-lasting crisis, instability and lack of political settlement. Alongside Syria, Libya is the only partner among the Southern Neighbourhood (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine*, Syria and Tunisia) not to have an Association Agreement with the EU.

Trade picture

  • Libya was the EU’s 47th biggest trade partner in 2020.
  • The EU is Libya’s biggest trade partner, representing 51% of the country’s global trade in goods in 2020.
  • Total trade in goods between the EU and Libya in 2020 amounted to €7.8 billion. The EU’s imports from Libya amounted to €4.0 billion and were dominated by fuel and mining products (€3.88 billion, 97.0%), in particular petroleum and petroleum products (€3.22 billion, 80.5%). The EU’s exports to Libya were worth €3.8 billion and were dominated by fuel and mining products (€1.5 billion, 39.5%), agricultural and raw materials (€0.9 billion, 23.7%) and machinery and transport equipment (€0.7 billion, 18.4%).
  • Two-way trade in services totalled €0.9 billion in 2019, with EU imports of services representing €0.3 billion and exports €0.6 billion.

The EU and Libya

The EU has no trade arrangements with Libya. In 2008, the EU and Libya started negotiations for a Framework Agreement on trade. However, these negotiations were suspended in February 2011 due to the ongoing political crisis. Even though the EU assists Libya with its political transition to a stable and prosperous country, with the resumption of bilateral trade negotiations remaining an option in the future, the current lack of a political settlement prevents any trade discussions from taking place at the moment.

Libya is not a WTO member. Libya’s accession negotiations to the organisation started in July 2004 with the establishment of a Working Party. However, the negotiation process remains stalled.

Financial support

  • The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) was the key EU financing instrument for bilateral cooperation in Libya for the period 2014-2020. During this period, the EU’s financial assistance to Libya was worth €98 million and focused on the following priority sectors: governance, economic development, health, and support for civil society and young people.
  • Under the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2021-2027, the EU will adopt a broad new financial cooperation instrument: the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), which will replace the ENI. Due to the unstable political situation in Libya, since 2017 the EU has planned its financial assistance through yearly ‘Special Measures’, rather than through a multiannual programming process. This allows the EU to respond optimally to the rapidly changing environment.
  • More information on EU support is available from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.

Libya in the Southern Neighbourhood

The EU established its privileged partnership with the Eastern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean back in 1995 with the launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership at the Barcelona Conference, aiming to establish an area of peace, stability and economic prosperity that upholds democratic values and human rights.

The 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Process in November 2020 was an opportunity to reflect on the strategic partnership with the region in light of the political, socioeconomic, financial and environmental challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and to reassess the EU’s partnership with Libya and the other Southern Neighbourhood partner countries. Following consultations with partners, this reflection resulted in a Joint Communication by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on ‘A renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood – A new Agenda for the Mediterranean’ and the annexed ‘Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighbours’ in February 2021.

While the European Neighbourhood Policy also covers Libya, due to the lack of an Association Agreement, there are no shared Partnership Priorities between the EU and Libya.

More information on the Southern Neighbourhood

Trading with Libya

* This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.