PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR HOME AFFAIRS AND NATIONAL SECURITY: Malta urges coherent overall approach to bolster security in Libya

A coherent overall approach to addressing the capability gaps in Libya’s security sector is required if that country is to rebuild its internal stability and move forward, Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Carmelo Abela told an informal Council meeting of the EU’s 28 Defence Ministers. The meeting was hosted by Malta and was chaired by High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini. The Secretary General of NATO and the UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations were also present for part of the discussion.

The informal Council meeting opened on Wednesday, 26th April 2017 aboard the EUNVAFOR MED � Operation Sophia flagship San Giusto, which was berthed in the Grand Harbour. Operation Sophia was launched by the EU in 2015 to disrupt the business model of smugglers. On board, an extensive presentation on the operation was given by Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino, Operation Commander, followed by a question and answer session for the ministers on the activities of the operation. The meeting then continued at the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta on Thursday, 27th April.

Minister Abela said that, during the upcoming strategic review of Operation Sophia, Malta would like to see closer and careful attention being given to Libyan perspectives. Malta is also suggesting giving better consideration as to what can be done by the operation with its current mandate and existing resources when suspected cases of smuggling of Libyan oil come to light in the course of maritime tasks executed by Operation Sophia.

While the operation is providing value added in terms of law enforcement presence at sea and to mitigate the tragic results in terms of mass loss of life at sea arising from most migrant crossings to Europe, it cannot, alone, address the migration phenomenon, Minister Abela pointed out. The root causes, or indeed consequences, of irregular migration, need to be addressed by means of a comprehensive solution to these challenges. Here the EU has a responsibility to deliver. Training of Libyan law enforcement forces and the Libyan coastguard and police is but one component of this comprehensive solution. He noted that, ultimately, it will be a political solution arrived at by all Libyan actors that holds out the best hope for the country returning to stability and sustainably addressing the security vacuum that is responsible for the flows of irregular migrants. Thus, the EU’s resolve in pushing the actors towards this outcome is needed more than ever.

The informal Council meeting also took stock of ongoing work on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), as well as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD), and the European Commission-led work on implementing the European Defence Action Plan (EDAP), including the proposal for a European Defence Fund. They also focused on the issue of strengthening the EU Rapid Response toolbox, including the EU Battlegroups�an initiative aimed at correcting the shortcomings of the European Rapid Reaction Force through smaller, but more rapidly deployable, more mobile and more self-sustainable, higher-readiness forces, in particular to reinforce their modularity, preparation and effective financing.

During a concluding press conference together with High Representative Mogherini, Minister Abela said: This Informal Council meeting was held one month and two days after the Rome Declaration, marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the founding Treaties of what has evolved into today’s European Union. In that declaration, our heads of state or government made clear their commitment for our Union to be a safe and secure space. They put security and defence forward as areas in which the European project can be brought closer to its citizens and given a new impetus. In this meeting we have continued working in that direction.

The discussion at the informal meeting is now expected to be continued at the formal meeting of the Council of Defence Ministers formation on 18 May 2017.

Source: Government of Malta