The EU will continue to train the Libyan coastguard to control migration and border security, and sees ‘some positive signs’ despite the postponement of elections in the war torn North African state last month.
Speaking at a hearing of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee on Tuesday, Fernando Gentilini, European External Action Service Managing Director for the Middle East and North Africa, told MEPs that the EU’s mission in Tripoli is now ‘operational’.
Libya remains one of the main transit countries for migrants seeking to arrive in the EU via the Mediterranean Sea. In 2021, the number of attempted migrant crossings leaving Libya for the EU increased to 60,000 although around half of them were pushed back.
Earlier this week, the Head of the European Union’s Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM), Natalina Cea, and the Commander of the Italian Bilateral Mission of Assistance and Support in Libya (MIASIT LIBYA) Rear Admiral Placido Torresi, signed a Working Arrangement to establish operational cooperation between the two Missions.
EUBAM said the purpose of the agreement is to cooperate, within their respective mandates, with a view to supporting the relevant Libyan authorities in developing a comprehensive national security, and strategy, as well as capacity building; especially in the sector of integrated border management.
Last week, EUBAM said it would train 25 Libyan coastguards in cooperation with Spanish national police.
Libya was on the agenda of an EU foreign affairs ministers’ meeting on Monday, where ministers issued a joint statement calling for elections to be held as soon as possible and for the withdrawal of all foreign mercenaries. The Kremlin–linked Wagner group, which was sanctioned by the EU in December, is one of the mercenary organisations present in Libya.
Gentilini pointed to what he described as “positive signs”, including the opening of the coastal road to Sirte.
Still, there have been clashes in Tripoli, and presidential elections, which had been intended to be held on 24 December, were indefinitely postponed by Libya’s political leaders.
Meanwhile, Gentilini conceded that there has been very little progress in terms of the withdrawal of Turkish, Russian and mercenary forces.
EU had already sent election experts to Libya in December and has promised to send a full observation team.
The EU and the wider international community had hoped that a democratically-elected president and parliament could produce a government around which Libyans could unite. However, a lack of consensus on whether all presidential candidates, including one of Gaddafi’s sons, would be allowed to stand in the polls is one of the main causes of the delay.
Libya has been embroiled in civil war for most of the past decade, after a France and UK initiative to topple Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Last February in Geneva, members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum agreed to establish an interim government of national unity to replace the two rival administrations of Fayez al Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar in Tripoli and Tobruk, ahead of fresh elections.
However, the delays to the polls are now undermining public legitimacy of the government.