Monday

21st Jan 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. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Salvini and Kaczynski - the new 'axis' powers?
  2. Seven member states miss climate plan deadline
  3. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  4. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  5. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  6. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  7. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  8. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us