6th Dec 2022

EU needs to 'rethink' approach to southern neighbourhood

Top EU officials are visiting Tunisia on Tuesday (31 March) to discuss security and migration as asylum seekers continue to head to the European Union from conflict-ridden Libya.

In a stopover in Malta on his way to Tunis on Monday, EU council president Donald Tusk described the situation in Libya as “a result of total anarchy”.

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

  • War in Libya adds to the misery of people seeking refuge in Europe (Photo: BRC)

Speaking alongside Malta’s PM Joseph Muscat, Tusk said there is no “silver bullet” response to a country that has become the main staging ground for people seeking to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

Asylum applications in the EU last year increased by 44 percent to 626,000 when compared to 2013. Around one-fifth are Syrians fleeing civil war at home.

The EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, on Monday said between 500,000 and 1 million people are set to leave Libyan shores for Europe.

With recent incursions by Islamic state militants into Libya, the resulting turmoil has left the EU scrambling to find an answer.

Tusk said EU leaders are committed to putting an end to the suffering but ruled out any military intervention.

“What is less clear is how we can help. We need to think it over again. To come up with new, creative solutions. Not to stick to old ideas," he said.

The EU is backing the UN-mediated peace talks in Tripoli to put together a unity government led by its special envoy, Bernardino Leon.

But Leon earlier this month had called on the EU to mount a naval blockade off Libya to prevent the flow of weapons and the illegal export of oil.

"There's a measure that the European Union can take right away: Come out in force to guard the seas off Libya. Italy can't do it alone. It needs help,” Leon told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

Leon’s comments were made around the same time Italy launched what it describes as an annual naval exercise off Libya.

Italian authorities say the deployment of military assets is part of a training exercise that “has nothing to do with other scenarios”.

Asked to comment, Tusk said he is open to the discussions on the blockage initiative with Italy’s PM.

“It is absolutely understandable for me that Italy is the leading country in this issue and we have to think about every initiative, also the initiative of member states,” said Tusk.

Tusk is now in Tunisia along with the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Kerchove.

Meanwhile, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the Alliance wants to expand cooperation with the EU to face new security threats and challenges.

“We also stand ready to work with Libya on defence capacity building when the security situation allows,” he said.

Stoltenberg said Nato is also working Jordan and Iraq.

“We believe we can project stability without always deploying large number of forces,” he said.

EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos

Hungary will be in the spotlight on Tuesday as EU governments struggle over suspending EU funds to prime minister Viktor Orbán's government — despite rule of law concerns — and unlock key EU policies which Budapest has been blocking.

EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary

Prime minister Viktor Orbán's government has to implement 27 measures "fully and correctly" before any payment from the €5.8bn recovery fund can be made, or the suspended €7.5bn of cohesion funds can be unblocked.

Catalan spyware victims demand justice

Victims of the widening spyware scandal in Spain are demanding justice and reparations, following the revelations that journalists, lawyers, civil society and politicians had been targeted.

EU Commission to keep Hungary's EU funds in limbo

The EU executive, on the other hand, is expected to approve Hungary's recovery plan, worth €5.8bn, but only would disburse actual money if Hungary delivers on some 27 key reforms.


Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

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. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  2. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  3. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies
  4. EU: 'We'll see' if Moscow actually stops selling oil over price-cap
  5. Bad Karma
  6. Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia
  7. Hungary's funds showdown in focus This WEEK
  8. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us