EU relies on its diplomatic abilities and different activities already in place to add to the work of the Libya Quartet, which it recently joined.
The Union can bring up its diplomatic skills to other international organisations’ efforts in finding stable solutions for Libya, a senior EU diplomat said. Speaking on the role the EU expects to have in in the Quartet, he added Brussels will base its work on the understanding that “Libya is our neighbour” and that “we do not believe there is military solution” to the crisis.
The “European Touch”
Apart of sharing it diplomatic contacts and experience, EU would like to contribute with its other activities already in place in Libya, the source said naming the financial assistance engagements and the EU naval operation “Sophia”.
EU is dedicating an additional 120 million EUR assistance package for projects covering the health sector, governance, security, civil society, protection of people, youth and education.
Its naval mission has been tasked to fight smugglers and traffickers in Libya, which currently is the main departure point for illegal crossings to the EU. IOM reports over 23 125 arrivals and 595 deaths in the first three months of 2017.
Since the extension of “Sophia’s” mandate 93 Libyan coast guards have been trained. The EU source confirmed a request for material equipment has been received and is currently studied by the European Commission.
Our intention is to incentive solutions in putting an effective government and is to persuade parties to talk instead of fight”, the diplomat said.
Brussels joined the so-called “Troika on Libya” in early March on invitation of other members – the UN, the League of Arab States and the African Union.
The first meeting with the participation of the EU took place on 18 March in Cairo. The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini then said Europe is willing to take responsibility to stop humanitarian tragedy as well as the “the trafficking and smuggling business (which) is part of one of the problems that Libya is facing in this moment”.
Detention camps and returns
One of the priorities of the EU is to improve conditions for migrants living in the so-called detention camps, the EU diplomat stressed. EU pledged to assist the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) for the humanitarian returns of those wishing to go back. Brussels aims for at least 5000 voluntary returns this year.
The returns from Libya are part of a €100 million project launched by the EU, IOM and the governments of Germany and Italy. The initiative announced in December aims to support African countries in responding to the urgent protection needs of migrants along the Central Mediterranean migration routes and in strengthening migration governance.
The IOM works with 12 official detention centres in Libya, which are considered safer than those governed by local militias.
The diplomat elaborated also on the growing problem with providing identification and travel documents for immigrants willing to go home as some of the African countries embassies in Tripoli are working only few hours per week with the applicants making the return mission even more troublesome. The IOM, with which EU teams up on returns could be tasked with relying contact with the diplomatic missions in Tripoli “to see what can be done”, the senior EU official explained.
The role of Russia in Libya
Libya is on the agenda of EU Foreign Affairs Council for second consecutive month. The European top diplomats are expected to touch upon the question of possible increased involvement of Russia in Libya. Russia is expected to become more visible in Libya after the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) and Russian state oil-giant Rosneft signed cooperation agreement in February.
“We would like any Russian involvement to be coordinated with other international actors”, an EU senior diplomat commented.
Joined Communique of the Libya Quartet meeting
First Meeting of Libya Quartet – Press Release
Video of the press conference following the Libya Quartet meeting
IOM migration statistic for January-March 2017
EU naval mission Sophia
EU-Libya relations – Facts and Figures
Council conclusions on Libya – February 2017