Tuesday

6th Dec 2022

EU to target migrant smugglers

  • Triton, run by the EU's border agency Frontex, will have its monthly budget tripled to around €9 million (Photo: Frontex)

EU leaders on Thursday (23 April) declared war on migrant smugglers and promised to triple the monthly budget of the EU’s sea surveillance mission, Triton.

But broader efforts to address politically sensitive issues on a better distribution of asylum seekers and refugees largely fell to the wayside as leaders instead placed emphasis on giving the EU's surveillance mission Triton more cash, more boats, and more planes.

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 boat busting operation, entirely separate from Triton, would be led by the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

EU president Donald Tusk following the summit’s conclusion briefed reporters saying that “saving lives is not just about rescuing people at sea, it is also about stopping the smugglers.”

This means Triton’s mandate won’t be changed to have a broad search and rescue mission but will remain primarily focused on surveillance and limited to patrolling Italy’s coastal waters.

The decision is set to disappoint aid organisations and the European Parliament who have called for an fully-fledged search and rescue on par with Italy’s now defunct Mare Nostrum naval operation.

"When people are dying right in front of our eyes, human decency demands that we hold out our hand to save them," said European parliament president Martin Schulz, with around 1,700 people already thought to have drowned this year alone.

More money for Triton

Thursday’s hastily convened summit was called in response to those deaths after the European commission proposed a ten-point plan for immediate action earlier in the week.

Triton, which is led by the EU’s border agency Frontex, is now set to get around €9 million a month from the EU budget for the rest of the year and well into 2016.

The surveillance mission currently has four fixed-wing aircraft, one helicopter, four open-shore and one coastal patrol vessels, and two patrol boats.

Its inventory is set for a big increase following pledges by member states to boost the number of military assets.

UK navy flagship

The UK is sending its navy flagship HMS Bulwark, which according to one UK source, won’t be limited to Triton’s 30 nautical mile range.

“[Bulwark] will go where it is needed,” he said, noting the boat could be deployed within a week. Britain also agreed to double to €1 million a year the amount money it contributes to Triton.

Germany, for its part, is offering ten ships and one naval vessel.

France said it will give three experts, an F-406 surveillance plane for 15 days in September, and a patrol boat for 30 days in November.

Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Sweden and others have also made pledges.

'Identify, capture and destroy'

Declarations made throughout the day by EU leaders to save more lives at sea have also resulted, in part, to a planned mission “to identify, capture, and destroy” migrant vessels “before they are used by traffickers.”

The terminology “before they are used by traffickers” led to suggestions that boats could be destroyed at port or on land. But one EU official dismissed the idea, noting that the boats would be sunk out at sea and possibly within Libyan waters.

The boat busting operation, entirely separate from Triton, would be led by the EU’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.

The plan still requires either a mandate from United Nation’s security council or a special request from Libya.

Both possibilities pose a number of problems.

For one, Libya has no functioning government to prove such a request. Second, a senior EU diplomat told reporters he is doubtful Russia, which sits on the UN’s security council, would ever agree to it.

French president Francois Hollande, for his part, plans on discussing the issue with Vladimir Putin when they meet in Armenia’s capital Yerevan on Friday.

Refugees

The lucrative trade is already feeling a squeeze as more and more boats used by the smugglers are either lost at sea or never recovered.

Meanwhile tricky issues like relocating refugees, despite making it into the final council conclusion, was barely discussed.

Governments had initially floated the idea of taking in 5,000 but then dropped the figure altogether.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said the EU didn't agree to a figure for the resettlement pilot project "because we felt that 5,000 would not be sufficient.”

The EU hosts some 36,000 Syrian refugees of which around 30,000 are in Germany alone.

Germany also received more than 200,000 asylum applications last year, one third of all those made in the EU. Germany, Sweden, Italy and France fielded nearly two thirds of all asylum applications.

EU leaders skirt asylum rules debate

Almost two years have gone by since EU heads of state first declared their “determination to reduce the risk of further tragedies” following the drowning deaths of over 300 migrants off the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Thousands of migrants rescued in Mediterranean

Thousands of people in rickety boats and rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean were rescued over the weekend in one of the largest life-saving operations to date led by Italy’s coastguard.

Juncker annoys centre-right on migration

EU commission chief Juncker has said the outcome of the EU summit on migration is "inadequate", putting himself at odds with his own political family.

Opinion

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

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us