Spain says Swiss acted correctly in Libya row

During a spat with Tripoli, Switzerland’s refusal to grant top Libyans visas for most of Europe was appropriate, Spain’s foreign minister has said.

This content was published on June 16, 2010 - 10:41

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper published on Wednesday, Miguel Ángel Moratinos said the visa ban Switzerland imposed in November 2009 on around 150 prominent Libyans to keep them out of Europe’s 25-country Schengen Zone conformed to treaties on border security.

As a member of the zone, Switzerland has a right to appeal against visas issued by a member state, since once inside the bloc, travellers are essentially free to move between countries without systematic passport checks at borders.

“Switzerland didn’t do anything other than this,” the foreign minister said. “It saw a threat to national security.”

Moratinos, who along with German negotiators has played a key role in helping to soothe tensions between Bern and Tripoli, said he expects Switzerland and Libya to normalise relations now as quickly as possible.

The fighting began in July 2008 after Geneva police arrested Hannibal Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, on suspicion that he and his pregnant wife had beaten their staff while in the city.

The charges were dropped but Libya cut flights, withdrew assets, closed Libya-based Swiss businesses and refused to allow two Swiss nationals to leave the country for months. One of the men, Max Göldi, was eventually jailed on charges that many observers felt were unjust.

Moratinos said as a negotiator he could not give an opinion on Göldi’s case.

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