EU urging for naval mission in Mediterranean

EU’s foreign policy chief pushes for an unprecedented naval mission in Mediterranean Sea

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday pushed for an unprecedented naval mission in the Mediterranean using military force to stop boats and “human smugglers” smuggling people into Europe.

EU foreign and defence ministers are expected to approve the mission, which would involve destroying boats of smugglers completing the voyage to Europe, at a meeting in Brussels in Belgium on Monday.

Mogherini said that EU foreign and defence ministers “will be taking the decision to establish the operation at sea to dismantle the criminal networks that are smuggling people in the Mediterranean.”

The command-and-control structure of the mission will also be clarified by the ministers at the EU headquarters during the meeting.

If all goes as planned the EU can take military action using air strikes against vessels docked in Libya suspected to be engaged in migrant trafficking.

Mogherini who said that “No one is thinking of bombing,” boats to fight against the people smugglers early last week had instead asked the United Nations to back the “mandatory migrant quota system” which was proposed to the EU members states to take in asylum seekers.

Although the “mandatory migrant quota system” was proposed there is still uncertainty whether the proposal may be approved as the UK, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia strongly oppose the idea and the suggestion must be agreed upon by all EU states.

Although Mogherini said no to bombing earlier, she is now saying that the naval mission is seen as an EU agreement that will accelerate the United Nations mandate needed for EU countries who want the authorisation to act.

“Once we adopt a decision today, it will be more urgent and clear for the [UN] Security Council,” said Mogherini.

If the UN does not provide authorisation, the EU’s naval mission headquarters, which are expected to be in Italy, will not have the international authorisation to arbitrate in Libyan territorial waters and onshore in Libya.

Gerald Klug, Austrian Defence Minister made it clear that, “Nothing will happen without a UN mandate.”

Despite the fact that the EU has not trained any proper Libyan security forces in the post-intervention period to fight against the dreadful crisis, the ministers are planning to meet on general terms on Monday to start using EU ships and helicopters in the Mediterranean to gather information about human traffickers.  

On May 11, the envoy to the UN of Libya’s rival House of Representatives (HoR) assembly, Ibrahim Dabbashi, told the BBC that, "The Libyan government [HoR] has not been consulted by the European Union. They have left us in the dark about what their intentions are, what kind of military actions they are going to take in our territorial waters, so that is very worrying."

Currently the European Union (EU) is facing serious issues in tackling the deadly Mediterranean crisis. One thousand eight hundred and fifty people have died since the start of the year and over 10,000 people have been plucked from the sea during joint EU member state patrols.

An initial step was taken towards a solution on April 23, when the European Union decided to increase patrols in the Mediterranean Sea against human trafficking, following the deaths of more than 800 migrants on April 19.

As the EU and United Nations try to find a solution to the crisis, migrants continue to take exhausting and deadly journeys to Europe by walking, travelling in unsafe vessels and hiding underneath trucks and in train carriages.

TRTWorld and agencies