Borrell admits the reluctance of Austria and other countries to relaunch the ‘Sophia’ mission in the Mediterranean

 Josep Borrell ante la prensa en Bruselas

Josep Borrell before the press in Brussels – Etienne Ansotte / European Commiss / DPA


The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, admitted on Monday the discrepancies between the countries of the bloc to close an agreement to resume the military operation 'Sophia', pointing out that the issue can be postponed to the next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council (CAE).

Borrell admits the reluctance of Austria and other countries to relaunch the ‘Sophia’ mission in the Mediterranean
Borrell admits the reluctance of Austria and other countries to relaunch the ‘Sophia’ mission in the Mediterranean

Asked about the blockade of Austria to relaunch the naval mission in the Mediterranean, the head of European diplomacy has indicated that “there is more than one country” that refuses to resume the operation. “When you approach to make a decision, many others show reluctance,” he said upon arrival at the CAE, not wanting to specify which countries he refers to.

Thus, Borrell has recognized the problems to agree on a plan, which requires the unanimity of the Twenty-seven, and has opened to postpone the matter to the next CAE of the month of March. “I do not think we can today. But we are not in a hurry either, it can be addressed in the next Council,” he said, pointing out that there are European capitals that believe that more evaluations are needed before making a decision that can have an effect called “.

Until now, countries such as Austria or Hungary have raised their firm opposition to providing ships with the operation 'Sophia', then there are other countries that show their concern about the conflict arising from the landing of migrants, that would be the case in Italy, although In any case, the Executive of Rome does not close in band to reactivate the maritime activities of 'Sophia', as most of the Twenty-seven support, including Spain.

Operation 'Sophia' remains without ships since March 2019 due to the lack of commitment of the previous Italian coalition government between the League and the 5 Star Movement. Vienna, which has led the opposition to the EU initiative to provide ships with the mission, rejects “quick decisions that may create additional problems” and points out that the presence of EU ships will have a “called effect” for migration from North Africa


However, Borrell has revealed that the situation in Libya “is very bad” and explained that he has received a letter from the UN special envoy, Ghasan Salamé, in which he notes the deterioration of the situation.

“He says that the ceasefire has not yet occurred, the truce has been violated, just as the arms embargo and fighting continue. But the political process in Berlin continues, but the situation on the ground is very bad,” he said. Detailed High Representative on the situation of the North African country.

Along these same lines, upon arrival the EU Foreign Ministers have expressed their doubts that a political agreement can be reached to reactivate 'Sophia'. Thus, the Swedish headline, Ann Linde, has been blunt in her resounding 'no' when asked if she believed that an agreement on the naval mission in the Mediterranean could be closed.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who has led the peace efforts through the Berlin Conference, has reiterated that in order to monitor the arms embargo, EU support is needed and has stressed the importance of reviving 'Sophia' “for security reasons in Europe and not just for the immigration issue”.

On his side, the Luxembourg Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, has pointed out that the arms embargo is a “European obligation”, so he believes that in the end the EU countries will have to reach an agreement. “It is a bit of an exaggeration to break the consensus to avoid saving lives at sea,” he criticized.

Its Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haavisto, has put the focus on renewing the mission, as it can be useful to guarantee the arms embargo. The mandate of 'Sophia' expires on March 31 and has been a year without a naval presence, due to the lack of agreement in the EU.

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