The Brief, powered by Eni – Loose policy sinks ships

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The EU’s naval mission in the Med has failed to stop the criminals it was meant to target and has actually contributed to more deaths, according to a report by the UK parliament. So why is Ireland on the brink of joining Operation Sophia?

After two years of trying to disrupt people-smuggling networks and save as many people as possible from a watery grave, Operation Sophia seems like EU policy at its worst: backed by good intentions but halfheartedly implemented and failing to meet its main objectives.

A UK House of Lords committee found that the naval mission has failed in its quest to put an end to the people smuggling and trafficking business that has illegally brought so many migrants across the sea.

It also found that the well-intentioned destruction of the smugglers’ boats has pushed more and more people to attempt the crossing in unseaworthy craft and ultimately caused more deaths.

The committee’s report is a shocking read and actually concludes that it sees no reason to renew Sophia’s mandate. Although it did praise the humanitarian aspect of the mission and pointed out that over 33,000 people have been saved to date.

So where does the operation go from here?

If phase 2 of the mission only cleaned the wound but did nothing to stop the bleeding, then treatment shouldn’t stop, it must be stepped up.

Walking away or just continuing with business as usual is, clearly, not an option.

Phase 3 of Sophia would involve EU vessels entering Libyan waters (currently prohibited). The House of Lords rightly pointed out that the smugglers do their business on the coast, so a fully at-sea mission is only ever going to be damage control.

That would need a fresh UN mandate or the approval of the Libyan authorities. Given the North African country’s ongoing political instability, the Operation’s commanders have to go to the UN and plead their case.

Ireland’s parliament is still deliberating whether or not to join the mission. Its vessels currently only carry out rescue work and sources say the Irish navy is chomping at the bit to be involved more.

Although there are legitimate concerns that increased participation in the EU mission will reduce rescue capabilities elsewhere, if Sophia is given the mandate it has always needed and more member states get involved, far fewer people will actually need saving.

Click here to follow our migration coverage.

This Brief is powered by Eni – Circular economy also means getting your hands dirty. At Eni, we are working to turn household garbage, sewage sludge and food waste into clean energy that will power our cars. Biofuels are a great opportunity for Europe – the EU should make sure it catches it.

The Roundup

President Trump arrived in Paris hoping to find some respite from the growing Russia scandal back home in watching the French national day parade and having a private dinner with Emmanuel Macron at the Eiffel Tower.

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Before the visit, the never-tiring Macron called for a greater convergence of the eurozone countries and even said that the ‘dysfunctional’ euro area was benefitting Germany.

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Member states opted to cut by €1.2 billion the proposed EU budget for 2018. The European Parliament said the decision was contradictory and deplorable while NGOs said it was short-sighted and unwise. Find out why here

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At a high-level summit in Trieste, the EU scaled down its ambitions for an economic union of six Western Balkans countries but offered the region more funds for infrastructure and energy.

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Macedonia, one of the six Balkan states, said the region’s eagerness to join the bloc could help the EU regain self-confidence and “feel attractive” again.

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Back on its home turf, Serbia announced plans to limit the sale of arable land to foreigners, barely two months before a full liberalisation of the farmland market, agreed with the EU, should take place.

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Across the Channel, Queen Elisabeth treated the Spanish royal family to a three-course dinner but the conciliatory tone did not cover up their differences over Gibraltar or Brexit.

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The UK government published its ‘Great Repeal Bill’, just as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn turned up at the Berlaymont for talks with Michel Barnier.

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And have a look at Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel having a bash at speaking each other’s language. Vive die Mehrsprachigkeit!

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