EU deplores Libyan visa ban

February 16, 2010 12:00 am

, BRUSSELS, Feb16 – The EU Commission on Monday deplored Libya\’s decision to stop giving visas to European travellers as a row between Switzerland and Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi dragged in more countries.

The dispute centres on Switzerland, a member of the EU Schengen free-travel zone, which has fallen out with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi over the treatment of one of his sons in the country.

"The European Commission deplores the unilateral and disproportionate decision by Libyan authorities to suspend the delivery of visas to EU Schengen countries\’ citizens," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said.

"The Commission also regrets that travellers who legally obtained visas before the suspension measure were refused entry when arriving in Libya," Malmstroem said.

EU and Schengen member states will discuss the matter this week to "consider the appropriate reaction," she said.

On Sunday Libya\’s private daily Oea, which is close to Kadhafi\’s family, quoted a senior official as saying that Libya had decided to stop issuing visas to Schengen-member citizens.

The paper had previously reported, citing an unidentified "high-ranking" unidentified official, that Kadhafi and his family are among 188 Libyan figures barred from visiting Switzerland.

Libya has been embroiled in a diplomatic row with Switzerland since July 2008 after the brief arrest in Geneva of one of Kadhafi\’s sons, Hannibal, and his wife when two hotel servants complained he had mistreated them.

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Monday charged Switzerland with holding the Schengen zone members hostage because of its move against Libya.

Switzerland must "resolve this bi-lateral issue … but not at the expense of everyone else," Frattini told Sky TG24, adding that he had stressed to Bern the "sensitivity" of the situation.

Earlier Monday, the foreign ministry advised Italians not to attempt to visit Libya because of the visa ban imposed by Tripoli.

The passport-free Schengen zone comprises 25 nations, including Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and most European Union members except Britain, Ireland, Bulgaria and Romania.


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