The mayors from Tripoli and Sirte led a delegation to Trieste in Italy on 13-15 June to assess whether the fishing cooperatives of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region could serve as a model for Libya's fishermen. The visit is the latest example of cooperation between members of the European Committee of the Regions and local authorities in Libya.
The study trip, which included tours of fish farms, a visit to a fish-processing plant and meetings with Italian fishermen, came at the initiative of Franco Iacop (IT/PES), president of the regional council of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region and member of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). In proposing the visit, Mr Iacop suggested that the experience that cooperatives in Friuli Venezia Giulia have developed over more than a century of fishing could be of use to Libyan fishermen as they seek to develop their industry and market their catch internationally.
The Libyan fisheries industry, which is based on family units, is struggling to meet the requirements set for sale of fish to the European Union. During the study visit, the Libyan politicians and officials also met local business leaders.
The Libyan delegates came from Tobruk and Benghazi as well as from Tripoli and Sirte, site of one of the most important military clashes in the country's ongoing unrest. The group of ten was led by Abdelrauf Beitelmal, mayor of Tripoli, and Mukhtar Bin Khaleefah, mayor of Sirte.
Mr Beitelmal is the principal Libyan initiator of the collaboration between the European Committee of the Regions and Libyan mayors, which dates back to mid-2015, when he led a group of elected mayors to the CoR. In January 2016, Mr Beitelmal wrote to members of the Committee of the Regions on behalf of Libyan mayors, asking if they could find ways of supporting Libyan municipalities in six specific areas: water management, waste management, financial management, primary health care, public administration, and language training.
Members of the Committee of the Regions have already provided initial support in the six areas identified by Mr Beitelmal and discussed in Nicosia at a meeting in 2016 of mayors from the EU and the Mediterranean region. The CoR's collaboration – known internally as the 'Nicosia initiative' – has since expanded beyond the original request, to include support for counter-radicalisation efforts as well as the development of the Libyan fisheries industry.