On March 31st 2020, the European Union stepped up its efforts to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya by launching a new military operation in the Mediterranean dubbed “Irini” (Greek for “peace”). The mandate of the Operation will last until March 31st, 20201.
In order to fulfill its mission, the Operation will employ the use of aerial, satellite, and maritime assets primarily to inspect vessels off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms. Secondary tasks of the Operation will include gathering information on illicit exports of petroleum from Libya, training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, and contributing to the disruption of human smuggling and trafficking businesses.
“Only political solutions and the full respect of the UN arms embargo will bring a solution to the Libyan crisis. But diplomacy cannot succeed unless it is backed by action” said Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and President of the Council. For this, six weeks after a first political agreement was reached between the EU Member States, the Union launched the new military operation in the Mediterranean.
On the same day that EUNAVFOR MED IRINI (the official name of the operation) began, Operation Sophia, which has been tackling refugee smuggling in the Mediterranean since 2015, officially came to an end.
On April 8th, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, and Poland issued a joint statement of support to the Operation. “We, as the current and previous European Union members of the Security Council, welcome the launch of the new Operation Irini as an important contribution of the European Union to support the political process and the implementation of the Berlin Conference Conclusions and Resolution 2510,” reads the statement. The Conclusions and the Resolution both called for a nationwide ceasefire in Libya as well as for an enforcement of the Libya arms embargo.
Both Borrell and the parties to the joint statement acknowledge the dire need for a humanitarian truce in Libya, especially during a time of crisis such as the COVID19 pandemic. Indeed, in Borrell’s words: “Nobody can afford to wage two wars at the same time.”