Wednesday

1st Apr 2020

EU ready to destroy smuggler boats at sea

  • Fishing boats in Libya. A new military target. (Photo: michaël stone)

The EU wants to step up its boat-sinking operation against smugglers in the Mediterranean sea.

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said on Thursday (3 September) that the EU's naval operation - EUnavfor Med - is now ready to move from a surveillance-only phase to one that seizes and destroys boats in international waters.

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 join as a group

"The intelligence that was gathered throughout phase one highlighted that, on at least 16 occasions in these last five weeks, we could have gone after smugglers and traffickers already", she said.

Mogherini laid out the latest plans at a meeting of EU defence ministers, but noted they still need to be formally adopted.

Foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Friday and Saturday will also discuss the phase two plan.

Military assets from contributing member states will stay out of Libya’s territorial waters, Mogherini added.

But she said the transition to phase two would require "more vessels, more assets".

Launched in June, the anti-smuggling flotilla already includes the Italian flagship "Cavour", the British warship "Enterprise", two German warships, in addition to air assets from France, Luxembourg, Italy, and the UK, including two submarines, deployed for their advanced surveillance and detection capabilities.

The third phase will see the EU operation destroy boats "preferably before use" and apprehend traffickers and smugglers.

Moving the operation from the high seas to inside territorial waters is a contentious issue for Libyan and Russian authorities.

The EU needs formal approval from Benghazi or the backing of a UN Security Council resolution. It has received neither.

Libya’s internationally-recognised government in Tobruk does not control the coastal area of the country where many of the smugglers disembark.

With Tobruk’s mandate set to end in October, Mogherini is hoping the UN can finalise a deal to broker a national unity government with its rival government, a loose alliance of militias, based in Libya’s capital Tripoli.

Russia has now indicated it would back a UN resolution that excludes territorial waters.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, said the resolution could be adopted within the month.

"We will work within the framework of international law and this is what we are doing and this is what we will continue to do," said Mogherini.

In Saudi Arabia, contacting the EU is a crime

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing trial. One of the allegations is contacting the EU delegation. Despite pressure from Brussels, Saudi Arabia remains unimpressed.

EU declares Africa 'most important' global partner

The European Commission has a new strategy for Africa. The proposal, whose details have yet to be worked out, spans broad issues like climate, energy, digital transformation, jobs, peace, governance, and migration.

News in Brief

  1. Danish conservatives want Orban party kicked out of EPP
  2. Dutch finance minister repents on virus help
  3. France to house domestic violence victims in hotels
  4. Europe sends medical goods to Iran, despite US embargo
  5. Commission sets consultation on raising 2030 climate target
  6. 12-year old Belgian girl dies of coronavirus
  7. EU commission: no 'indefinite' emergency measures
  8. Denmark plans 'gradual' return to normal after Easter

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  2. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough
  3. Trying to think straight about coronavirus
  4. Berlin ready to airlift Greek island refugees
  5. Von der Leyen criticises Hungary, but fails to mention it
  6. Air pollution drops in Europe, but how long will last?
  7. Human rights abusers don't stop for virus, MEPs tell EU
  8. EU states urged to share sick patients

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us