Sunday

22nd Sep 2019

EU looks to mothball Libya border mission

  • Tripoli: Fighting saw the EU staff abandon their new compound in July last year (Photo: Sebastia Giralt)

The EU is looking to mothball its Libya border-control mission despite concerns about foreign fighters and irregular migrants.

Launched in May 2013, but parked in Tunisia since July last year due to fighting in Tripoli, the €26-million a year operation - Eubam Libya - has had little opportunity to make an impact.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The need for it is greater than ever - the EU recently named Libya as the main source of small arms smuggling to Europe and as a potential source of returning European jihadists, while the number of migrant sea-crossings hit an all-time high in 2014.

But an EU options paper on Libya circulated last week indicates Eubam has a bleak future.

The paper, drafted by the EU’s external action service for Monday’s (19 January) foreign ministers’ meeting, says, according to an EU source familiar with the text, that “in the current circumstances it would appear that suspending the mission (i.e. effectively putting it on hold with much reduced mission personnel) could offer the most political flexibility, providing of course that the situation does not deteriorate further. In the latter event, closure could quickly become obligatory”.

It notes that Eubam's so-called Peacock Compound in Tripoli should be “dispensed with”.

It proposes the EU could instead try to help Libya’s neighbours - Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Niger, Chad, and Sudan - to seal their borders and “focus” on maritime surveillance and search and rescue.

It also says member states could extend bilateral counter-terrorist operations in neighbouring countries.

The EU foreign service on Saturday welcomed “initial progress” in peace talks between rival Libyan warlords held in Geneva.

But, according to the EU source, the options paper paints a worrying picture of the situation on the ground.

It describes the status quo as one of “continuation of a dialogue process, interrupted by violent actions on both sides, preventing conclusion on any serious agreement”.

It also warns of a possibility of “full civil war resulting in anarchy and widespread conflict drawing in many other factions and tribes and triggering a response from regional actors”.

One measure of the conflict is Libya’s shrinking oil output.

It used to deliver 1.4 million barrels a day to world markets before the war, slipping to 900,000 last November and just 200,000 today.

The options paper suggests the EU could send more experts to support the UN mission in Libya; blacklist people who act as “spoilers” to the peace process; and encourage the International Criminal Court in The Hague to launch actions against the same individuals.

It notes, the EU source said, that “some key partners are leading on detailed preparatory work … to prevent exploitation of Libyan financial resources for military or political purposes (including possible funding of international terrorism)”.

One idea is to put Libya’s financial assets under international supervision, with international bodies to pay public sector salaries.

The most far-reaching options include imposing a UN-level oil embargo and putting foreign troops on the ground.

But, according to the EU source familiar with the paper, it warns this could have unpredictable consequences.

“This option [the oil embargo] should be considered with the greatest caution as it would take a heavy toll on the Libyan economy and society, and may trigger unforeseen reactions”, it says.

“The more far-reaching measures entail serious risks, including attempts by militias to seize control of assets, a strong response from the Arab world (and Russian) against foreign intervention, and reduced willingness to proceed with the (UN-led) mediation process”.

With some member states calling on the EU to take steps against Russian propaganda on Ukraine, the Libya paper also says Libyans need better access to information.

The EU source said the paper warns that “national radio and television stations have been pressured to broadcast according to the views of the authorities in power in their area. This fuels the polarisation process, triggers decisions based on false information and prevents reconciliation”.

The paper adds: “The EU could further explore options for an independent neutral public broadcaster for Libya, in a secure manner not to put the journalists at risk, initially through social media/internet".

“The EU through its co-operation with Deutsche Welle and the BBC are looking into the feasibility of this option".

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us