Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

EU to expand Mediterranean anti-smuggler force

  • The EU force has been conducting reconnaissance operations since June (Photo: Israel Defense Forces)

EU countries will on Wednesday (16 September) pledge more naval assets for an operation to curb human smuggling in the Mediterranean Sea.

The "force generation conference", to take part in Brussels under the auspices of the EU external action service, comes after ministers, on Monday, gave the green light to "phase two" of "EUnavfor Med".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The operation currently has eight vessels, including two submarines, and several aircraft from 14 member states.

Phase one, in the EU's words, consisted of "surveillance and assessment of human smuggling and trafficking networks" and started in June.

Phase two "provides for the search and, if necessary, diversion of suspicious vessels" in international waters and is expected to start in mid-October.

Phase three "would allow the disposal of vessels and related assets, preferably before use, and to apprehend traffickers and smugglers" in Libyan waters and on Libya's coasts.

Monday's decision will also see EU officials begin to draft "rules of engagement" for phase two, which must be approved by EU ambassadors in the Political and Security Committee before EUnavfor Med switches up gear.

An internal EU document on the project, seen by EUobserver in May, warned that: "Non-compliant boarding operations against smugglers in the presence of migrants has a high risk of collateral damage including the loss of life".

For his part, Vincenzo Camporini, the former head of the Italian military, told EUobserver Monday that six to 10 vessels, supported by UAVs and other airforce surveillance, should be enough to carry out the second phase.

He noted the rules of engagement will be “critical” in defining the operation’s needs, however.

“If they just sink ships after rescuing the people on board, they won’t be doing much more than they do already, which is to sink empty vessels on grounds that they are a danger for mairitime mavigation”, he said.

He noted it would be “too dangerous” to “engage” with smugglers’ vessels while smugglers are on board.

Looking to phase three, he added: “If you go on shore, you are basicially declaring war on Libya and I think to get a UN resolution to do that is very, very unlikely”.

Russia factor

Russia's EU envoy, Vladimir Chizhov, has also noted the EU scheme will come up for discussion at the UN general assembly in New York this month.

He told the Tass news agency, on Friday, the EU needs a UN resolution even for action in international waters which leads to "detention and control of vessels without a flag, or under flags of countries that supported the UN Security Council resolution".

He said it also needs a UN or a Libyan permit for phase three.

Meanwhile, Russia, a UN veto-holder, is expanding its military presence in the region.

It confirmed last week that it's sending military personnel and weapons to support the Syrian government, its old ally, in the fight against Islamic State.

It also warned the US to be careful who it hits in its bombing sorties in Syria.

Its Middle East intervention has prompted some EU diplomats to fret whether Russia plans to trade co-operation on IS or migrants for an end to Western sanctions over Ukraine.

Opinion

Brexit is an opportunity for EU defence policy

With the UK out, the EU will lose an important contributor to its security and defence policy, but also one of the member states that blocked the most progress in this policy area.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ