Wednesday

30th Nov 2022

EU set for new Libya naval mission

  • The amount of arms already in Libya has diminished the role of the UN embargo (Photo: EEAS)

The EU is rolling out a new naval operation in the Mediterranean to crack down on arms-smuggling into Libya, as it peels further away from migrant-rescues at sea.

Details are still being hammered out but foreign affairs ministers in Brussels on Monday (17 February) reached a political agreement to deploy aerial, satellite, and maritime assets, along with warships, in an effort to curb the weapons smuggling.

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

EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters, when asked if the warships would be mandated to stop suspected smugglers, "For sure, they are not just having a promenade."

The proposal follows a declaration made last month in Berlin when world leaders pledged to push for a ceasefire in Libya and guarantee an arms embargo.

But issues of how many warships there will be, and rules of engagement, remain as yet unanswered. The mission is set for launch at the end of March, and is relegated to an operational area off the eastern coast of Libya.

The mission will still have to carry out rescues should they encounter people in distress but warships will be removed should it be determined that their presence in the area is a pull factor.

"In case this pull factor appears, maritime assets will be withdrawn from the relevant areas," confirmed Borrel.

Borrel remained vague on how many migrants determine a pull factor, noting the decision will most likely be based on the advice of military command.

Although studies have shown that a concentration of navy and charity rescue boats in the area do not create a pull factor, Austria - along with some other EU states - remains fearful.

"Our Austrian friends were afraid that an agreement that existed before, which was called Sophia, could create a pull affect for migration. It was one opinion," said Luxembourg's minister of foreign affairs Jean Asselborn.

The mission will also continue to train the part-financed EU-Libyan Coast Guard and its navy. People rescued at sea by the coast guard are often returned to Libyan detention centres, one of which was was hit by airstrikes last July.

The latest mission thus spells the end of Operation Sophia, launched in 2015 and named after a baby who was born on the German frigate Schleswig-Holstein.

Sophia's theoretical area of operation stretched across much of the Mediterranean but the mission had its assets pulled in March last year after Italian led-objections that people rescued would be brought to Italy.

The more narrow focus of the new mission on preventing weapons from reaching Libya has yet to be formally named but a leaked document first reported by the Associated Press had it listed as "Operation EU Active Surveillance."

At least six foreign nations are fuelling conflict in Libya with some supplying weapons, mercenaries and military advisors in a country fractured by war.

Among them is the United Arab Emirates, said to be one of the biggest violators of the arms embargo. The country is also suspected of shelling a detention centre near Tripoli last July, possibly with French-built Mirage warplanes.

The UAE, along with Egypt, France, Jordan and Russia back Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar wants to take over the UN and EU-recognised GNA, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, who is now receiving help from Turkey.

Austria and Hungary derail EU naval plan on Libya arms

An EU naval operation set for launch in April off the Libyan coast may be derailed following objections by Austria and Hungary. Both want the power to end the mission should migrants be lured into being rescued.

EU shores up Libyan coast guard amid Covid-19 scare

The EU is reorienting funds to boost the Libyan coast guard - amid fears that the escalating violence in the north African country plus the coronavirus will force a large exodus of people to take boats towards Europe.

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

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 Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

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