Sunday

23rd Sep 2018

EU still angling for UN permit on migrant operation

  • (Photo: Sozialfotografie)

EU states haven’t given up on UN backing for their migrant boat “disposal” operation, as ministers launched a preliminary version of the project on Monday (22 June).

The UN resolution is “still in the cooking”, Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s foreign minister, whose country held the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in May, told EUobserver in Bratislava on Saturday.

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

He noted the EU has softened the language of its UNSC draft in a bid to win support from veto-holders China and Russia: “We’re no longer talking about ‘destroying’ ships but about ship ‘disposal’.”

He added the Libyan authorities in Tobruk, the UN-recognised faction in the fragmented country, might also give permission for EU navies to attack smugglers’ assets on its coasts and in its territorial waters.

“When I talked myself with the Libyan [UN] ambassador, my feeling was it’s possible to reach some solution. It’s simply important to involve them in spite of the messy situation [in Libya], which is natural if you want to do something on their soil”, he said.

“There are more problems, maybe, with the Chinese and the Russians”.

Linkevicius spoke after EU countries’ ambassadors, last week, gave the green light for foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, to launch EUnavfor Med.

The ministers endorsed the mission as an "A-point", with no debate.

But without UN or Libyan approval the operation will be limited to intelligence-sharing and surveillance operations only.

"The early phases of the operation will begin right away", British foreign minister Philip Hammond said.

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini noted: “There are things we can do in international waters. We can begin already”.

Human shields

EUobserver spoke to the Lithuanian minister in the margins of Globsec, an annual security congress in Bratislava.

For his part, a senior Italian military contact, who asked not to be named, told this website there’s little faith in military circles that EUnavfor Med will make a difference.

He said China and Russia are unlikely to bow to EU demands because they recall how the EU and the US, in 2011, used a “generous” interpretation of a UN mandate on protection of civilians to help bring down Libya’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

“Even if they do agree, the operation is unlikely to succeed”, he noted.

“When it comes to destroying smugglers’ boats, they’ll simply put migrants on them, even when they’re at anchor, to act as human shields”.

He pointed out the Libyan authorities in Tobruk don’t have control of coastal areas where most migrant embarkations take place.

He said authorities in other zones are unlikely to co-operate because local chiefs make too much money from smuggling.

He also noted that when Albanian migrants, in the 1990s, began crossing the Adriatic Sea en masse to Italy, the Italian navy, operating with a full legal mandate in a much smaller maritime zone, were unable to stop them.

Quotas

The Globsec event coincided with World Refugee Day on Saturday.

The other part of the EU’s migrant plan is a European Commission proposal to redistribute asylum seekers from Greece and Italy based on member states’ wealth.

EU commission vice-president, Frans Timmermans, and three of his colleagues, in a joint statement urged EU countries to show “solidarity and responsibility” by offering “protection to those in need”.

Rights activists in several major cities, including Berlin, Paris, and Rome, the same day held rallies calling for a more humane EU intervention.

The Slovak president, Andrej Kiska, in his keynote Globsec speech, also said “we [Slovakia] have the possibility, and as a successful country, also the moral duty, to help”.

Slovakia, a country of 5.4 million, under the commission’s quota, is to take in just 785 asylum seekers.

Racism

But a right-wing Slovak group, called Stop the Islamisation of Europe, on Saturday blocked traffic in Bratislava, when some 3,500 of its supporters held a rally with racist banners, such as “multiculturalism equals genocide”.

The protesters burned an EU flag and destroyed police cars, prompting some 140 arrests. They also attacked a Saudi family, with a small child, at the city’s train station.

Despite Kiska’s speech, the Slovak PM, Robert Fico, together with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, one day earlier, signed a joint memo pledging to oppose the EU quota plan.

Opinion

Building a Europe more resilient to terrorism

One year to the day since the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the commissioner for home affairs spells out what action the EU is taking now to protect against further attacks.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us