Friday

2nd Dec 2022

EU: Italy's choice to end or continue Operation Sophia

  • Operation Sophia was launched in 2015 (Photo: CSDP EEAS)

The European Commission says it is up to Italy to decide whether or not to suspend the EU's naval operation Sophia.

"If Italy decides, it is the country in command of operation Sophia, to stop it - it is up to Italy to make this decision," Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (23 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Italian-led naval operation was launched in 2015 and is tasked with cracking down on migrant smugglers and traffickers off the Libyan coast.

It has also saved some 50,000 people since 2015 but appears to have massively scaled back sea rescues, according to statements from Germany's defence minster.

German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen was cited by Reuters on Wednesday saying that the Italian command had been sending the Germany navy "to the most remote areas of the Mediterranean where there are no smuggling routes and no migrant flows so that the navy has not had any sensible role for months."

Germany had also announced it would not replace its naval asset for the operation, whose mandate is set to expire at the end of March.

But the commission says that Germany will continue to participate in the operation.

"There is no indication that it will not make another asset available in the future," said Avramopoulos.

A German spokesperson was also cited as confirming Germany wants the mission to continue beyond March.

The commission statements follow threats from Italy's far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini to scrap the naval mission over an on-going dispute on where to disembark rescued migrants.

Salvini was cited in Italian media complaining that people rescued are only offloaded in Italy.

The complaint is part of a long-outstanding dispute by Salvini, who last year insisted that people should be disembarked in other EU states.

The same issue was part of a broader debate in the lead up to a renewal of Sophia's mandate in late December.

EU still not clear on where to put rescued migrants

The mandate for Operation Sophia, the EU's naval mission in the Mediterranean sea, ends in December. Demands to change it, including new rules on disembarkation, are set to be agreed within the next few weeks.

Opinion

What Salvini teaches us about Operation Sophia

It seems as if the EU and some member states are trying to 'sell' European external action in Italy, Austria, Poland and Hungary as a key to solving internal issues – and thus pulling these missions into today's populist debates.

Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO

Afghan and Syrian nationals are being abused at EU-funded removal centres in Turkey amid a lack of proper monitoring, says Human Rights Watch. The findings come at a time when Turkey is deporting large numbers of Afghans back to Kabul.

Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Terezija Gras from Croatia, Dutchman Hans Leijtens, and Frontex's current interim executive director Aija Kalnaja, are all competing for a job left vacant by the resignation of Fabrice Leggeri.

Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges

Sweden won't make any pledges to relocate asylum seekers under a French-inspired EU plan because there is no legal basis, says Sweden's ambassador to the EU. But Sweden's new right-wing government is also tightening migration rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  2. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  3. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  4. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  5. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  6. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  7. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  8. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us