Saturday

23rd Nov 2019

Nato to join EU warships in Libya migrant operation

  • EU warships in the Mediterranean have picked up thousands of migrants trying to make the risky crossing (Photo: EEAS)

Nato warships and, potentially, drones are to help the EU control migrant flows across the Mediterranean in what critics have called the “militarisation of a humanitarian crisis”.

Nato head Jens Stoltenberg unveiled the new project, to be called operation Sea Guardian, on the last day of a summit in Warsaw on Saturday (9 July).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Migrant flows shifted back toward Libya and Italy after the EU shut the Greek-Balkan corridor (Photo: euoparl.europa.eu)

“We have decided to transform operation Active Endeavour into a broader security mission called Sea Guardian”, he said.

"We intend to work closely with the European Union's operation Sophia in the central Mediterranean, building on our swift and effective cooperation with the EU to cut lines of international human trafficking in the Aegean”, he said.

Speaking more broadly about the terrorist threat to Europe and the migration crisis, he added: “The scale of the task requires that we undertake joint efforts”.

Active Endeavour is an old Nato mission that was launched after 9/11 to protect shipping in the Straits of Gibraltar from terrorist attacks.

Sophia is an EU naval mission, launched last year, to stem the flow of migrants from Libya to Italy.

Stoltenberg’s mention of the Aegean refers to Nato’s decision, in February, to send seven warships to help stop migrant boats going from Turkey to Greece.

Sea Guardian

Nato officials said it was too early to publish details on when Sea Guardian would start work, what assets it would have, and what it would do.

But according to Nato literature, Active Endeavour was composed of Greek, Italian, Spanish and Turkish warships as well as Danish, German and Norwegian patrol boats.

A Nato source told EUobserver that Nato's new drones would “very likely” play a role in Sea Guardian.

The Western alliance, outside the summit venue in Warsaw, put on display one of the five Global Hawk machines that it recently bought from US firm Northrop Grumman and that are designed to start operations at the Sigonella air base in Italy in 2017.

They fly at high altitudes for up to 30 hours, covering areas larger than 100,000 square km, and transmitting almost real-time images.

The Warsaw summit declaration said Nato was ready to help Sophia on “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” as well as “capacity building of the Libyan coastguard and navy”.

With the Islamic State jihadist group active in Libya, a separate Nato press statement said that Sea Guardian would “have a broad scope, including providing situational awareness, countering trafficking and terrorism, upholding freedom of navigation and contributing to regional capacity building”.

Stoltenberg and Nato leaders, such as British PM David Cameron, said the joint EU-Nato operations in the Aegean had helped to reduce the number of people crossing from Turkey from 2,000 a day to fewer than 70 per day.

The steep drop is mainly based on an EU-Turkey deal under which Turkey stops migrants from embarking and takes them back from Greece.

Militarisation of misery

Leading NGOs have voiced strident criticism of Europe’s handling of the migration crisis, with some, such as Doctors Without Borders, boycotting EU funds in protest.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday attacked the new Nato operation.

“Nato’s involvement in migration control signals a dangerous shift toward militarisation of a humanitarian crisis”, the organisation’s Judith Sunderland said.

She urged the EU to “expand safe and legal routes to Europe”, adding: “Nato help for EU operations should avoid trapping people in lawless and violent Libya, either through forced returns or asking Libyan forces to send people back”.

US leader Barack Obama, speaking on Saturday, said that migrants are good for Europe’s economy and that German chancellor Angela Merkel “deserves enormous credit” for taking in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

“It's economics 101 - if you’ve got a younger population, your growth rate is going to be higher, and immigrants are strivers and they work hard”, he said.

He added that the “huge influxes of the sort that we've seen in Europe - that's always going to be a shock to the system”.

“It's a strain on the budget. It's a strain on politics. It's a strain on culture. It's legitimate for them [EU leaders] to say: ‘Look, we’ve got to slow this thing down. We’ve got to manage it properly’,” he said.

EU development aid to finance armies in Africa

The EU commission proposes to start financing militaries to help "partner countries in their development" as part of a larger policiy to stop migration to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. UK misses UN deadline to return Chagos Islands
  2. PM: Greece will 'shut door' to migrants without rights
  3. CDU leader offers to quit if party doesn't back her
  4. Serbian president confirms Russia spy video
  5. UK to repatriate 'Islamic State' orphans
  6. Man arrested over Maltese journalist murder free on bail
  7. Children with disabilities in Bulgaria isolated, report says
  8. WHO: 80 percent of adolescents don't exercise enough

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us