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The EU agrees to create a new naval mission in the Mediterranean that guarantees the arms embargo in Libya

February 17, 2020
Reunión de ministros de Exteriores de la UE

Meeting of EU Foreign Ministers – – / European Council / dpa

The operation will replace the 'Operation Sophia' and carry out bailouts, but will suspend its naval part if a 'called effect' occurs.


The EU has agreed on Monday to create a new air, naval and satellite mission in the Eastern Mediterranean that guarantees the arms embargo in Libya and replaces the 'Sophia' mission.

The EU agrees to create a new naval mission in the Mediterranean that guarantees the arms embargo in LibyaThe EU agrees to create a new naval mission in the Mediterranean that guarantees the arms embargo in Libya

As confirmed by the High Representative of Foreign Policy of the EU, Josep Borrell, the new mission, which has no name yet, will replace the mission 'Sophia' that expires on March 31, and will be deployed in the eastern Mediterranean, where There is a special incidence of arms trafficking routes.

To ensure that the control of the embargo is prioritized, the EU undertakes to withdraw ships if there is a “called effect” for migration. This was one of the main concerns expressed by some capitals, led by Vienna. The head of European diplomacy has shown his “satisfaction” for closing a political agreement, which, he admitted, at the beginning of the day seemed “difficult”.

Although Borrell has said he does not believe such a “call effect” exists, he has admitted that the agreement is a “midpoint” and the commitment to withdraw ships is a “concession” to close the agreement to Twenty-seven. “On the effect called there are different opinions. I think there is no such effect but some have their own interpretation of this, as Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi really depends on the ideology of each one,” he said.

“There are countries that interpret that there is a risk of greater migration. If that risk is manifested, we will act accordingly,” explained the High Representative.

On bailouts at sea, he has indicated that the mission will adhere to humanitarian law and EU military ships will act if they encounter drifting migrant barges. However, the head of European diplomacy has avoided fixing what number of bailouts would cause the withdrawal of naval resources from the new mission.


The new mission will continue to have secondary tasks, the fight against human trafficking mafias and the training of Libyan coastguards. Borrell has insisted that EU ships “of course” will have the capacity to stop ships dealing with weapons.

Borrell has not specified the resources that the operation will have, indicating that military criteria will be followed and all the details will be discussed in meetings at a technical level.

In any case, when asked by which countries will contribute to the new military operation, the European diplomacy official has indicated that “many countries” have lent themselves to offer means. “I don't think we are lacking in resources,” he said, although in any case the number of ships will be determined by military criteria.

In addition, the High Representative has explained that at the meeting there have been suggestions to extend the mission to the land area, to control the border between Libya and Egypt, something that has been ruled out in the understanding that the EU cannot do that. “We do what we can, we cannot deploy troops on the border, that is clear,” he stressed.


Upon leaving the EU Foreign meeting, several ministers have stressed that the operation will focus on a new area in the eastern Mediterranean, other than where 'Sophia' operated. Thus, the Austrian owner, Alexander Schallenberg, has reiterated that the mission is “new”, that it will focus on the east coast of Libya and that the EU will withdraw its ships if migrant traffickers use these routes.

His Italian colleague, Luigi di Maio, has been “very happy” to be able to reach an agreement for a mission that “will block the entry of weapons into Libya” and the fact that the EU has recognized the “called effect” and Be open to suspend the mission if there is an immigration incidence. “The Sophia mission no longer exists, there will be one focused on blocking weapons,” he said.

On his side, the head of German Foreign, Heiko Maas, has indicated that this agreement means “great support” to the Berlin process, which a few weeks ago agreed to cease fire in Libya. Meanwhile, the Spanish minister, Arancha González Laya, has indicated that land control has been suggested at the meeting, but “any intervention” in the territory of Libya would require the invitation of the Libyan authorities and be endorsed by the United Nations.

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