Wednesday

17th Aug 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.

Lampedusa: The invisible migrant crisis at Europe's gate

Last weekend, Italy's Lampedusa island was again making headlines for being overrun with migrants. But, paradoxically, the crisis was more visible from TV news bulletins and social media than from the ground.

News in Brief

  1. Tens of thousands of Jews quit Russia since start of war
  2. Russia says GDP forecasts better than expected
  3. Spain 'hopeful' for new gas pipeline
  4. German troops return to Bosnia over instability fears
  5. Next UK PM candidates reject Scottish independence push
  6. Russia will not allow British spy plane overflight
  7. Discrimination in Germany remains high, new figures show
  8. US weighs plan to revive Iran nuclear deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us