Friday

14th Aug 2020

Coronavirus

EU shores up Libyan coast guard amid Covid-19 scare

The European Union is reshuffling budgets to further shore up Libya's coast guard and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The money talks, held among EU foreign ministers earlier this week, comes amid a sharp spike in violence in the country.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Although figures are still being finalised, an EU official familiar with the talks provided a basic and partial breakdown of what is set to be around €100m.

At least €15m has been earmarked for the coast guard and €20m to fight Covid-19 alongside with the International Organization for Migration, said the source, who asked not to be named.

Those figures could shift, however.

The money is being taken from the European Neighbourhood Instrument, the EU's financial arm when it comes to countries like Libya. It will also come from the North of Africa section of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

The Visegrád Group, composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, are also pitching in from their own €35m pot.

It comes on top of the some €90m already doled out to the Libyan coast guard by the European Union.

The move is part of a proposal first floated by Malta to ease the tensions inside the civil-war torn country out of wider fears a mass of people will flee on boats towards Europe.

But for Mohamed Eljarh, an analyst based in Libya, the coast guard funding shows the EU is prepared to forgo its own values to keep people inside the country.

"The very same militias that are wearing coast guard uniforms are in fact the ones that are involved in human trafficking, human rights violations," he said on Thursday (23 April).

"It means 'I make a deal with militias that have caused the problem in the first place', a problem for Europe but also for the suffering of many of these migrants," he said.

Fewer than 50 people in Libya have tested positive for the virus, mostly in Tripoli and Misrata, a coastal town in the west.

Russia sees opportunity

The bigger concern appears to be the continued support of the warring factions from countries like Egypt, Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar is supported by Cairo and Abu Dhabi while Ankara backs the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Turkey's military support, including scores of Syrian mercenaries, has momentarily tipped the balance of power in Sarraj's favour.

But the LNA has since managed to secure air defence systems, possibly from the United Arab Emirates via Russia or other eastern European countries.

Eljarh says Russia is now angling its way into supporting Haftar as a more capable partner than Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

"The Russians are increasing their engagement - political engagement, let's say. They understand that things have starting to get difficult for Khalifa Haftar," he said.

The European Union has had a difficult time mustering any ceasefire in a country ravaged by competing interests, migration paranoia, and outside influence and actors.

For one, Italy and France found themselves supporting different sides of the conflict with a Germany careful not to overstep a United Nations mandate - which itself had already been undermined.

That German tiptoeing was on display earlier this year in Berlin when it hosted a conference in the hopes of reaching some sort of ceasefire in Libya. It didn't work.

Italy was then supposed to chair a committee to follow up on the Berlin conference. That too fell apart when the coronavirus ravaged the country.

"Unfortunately just as they took over the chairmanship, coronavirus came to Europe and it hit Italy very hard so there is limited bandwidth to deal with foreign policy," said Tarek Megerisi, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

EU set for new Libya naval mission

Foreign ministers reached a political agreement to create a new EU naval force to replace Operation Sophia. It aims to enforce an UN arms embargo on Libya and operate in area where migrants do not take boats.

Voice from Libya: No one is winning

Whether it is the West, Turkey, or Russia who think they are winning in Libya, Libyan people are the losers, according to one woman, speaking from Tripoli.

News in Brief

  1. Amazon people urge EU banks to stop funding pollution
  2. Russia vaccine could be "dangerous", Germany says
  3. EU to finance new Covid-19 research projects
  4. Croatia receives EU earthquake relief funds
  5. Facemasks required throughout Brussels
  6. EU opposes Mexico's transparent junk food labels
  7. Greece accuses Turkey of 'escalation' in maritime dispute
  8. Slovakia expels three Russians linked to Berlin murder

Opinion

Italy has a responsibility, too

Little wonder the leaders of Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden are unwilling to sign off: they're not going to give money so the Italians can fund a tax cut in the middle of an economic crisis.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. Belarus violence goes on, as EU ministers scramble
  2. French navy to deter Turkey's oil and gas grab
  3. EU ministers urged to talk Belarus, Turkey sanctions
  4. Drums of war again, in Europe
  5. EU looks on as Belarus protests turn lethal
  6. EU virus-alert agency says new restrictions needed
  7. Minsk violence prompts talk of EU sanctions
  8. Schrems privacy ruling risks EU's ties to digital world

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us