EU foreign ministers gave the green light Monday for the bloc to prepare a possible security mission in Libya once the country's warring factions agree to a national unity government.
“As soon as there is an agreement on a government of national unity and related security arrangements, the EU stands ready to enhance its support to Libya and contribute to the successful implementation of the agreements,” they said in a statement after meeting in Brussels.
They said they had asked EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini “to present as soon as possible proposals on possible Common Security and Defence Policy activities in support of the security arrangements.”
The EU’s Common Security policy is meant to coordinate member state security efforts, allowing the bloc to mount small assistance operations such as in the Balkans and in Central Africa to help with local policing and security problems.
Mogherini has pressed hard for progress on the issue, highlighting the threats to European security of the Islamic State jihadi group gaining a foothold in Libya and an even bigger exodus of illegal immigrants.
Many of the European Union’s 28 member states however remain wary of getting embroiled in a country which has descended into chaos since Britain and France led NATO efforts to oust long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
Mogherini told reporters she would brief an EU leaders’ summit later this week on the proposals and aimed to present concrete steps when foreign ministers meet again in April.
EU diplomatic sources said before Monday’s meeting that Mogherini wanted to get the ball rolling so the bloc could move quickly if need be but most member states wanted to avoid any military entanglement.
At the same time, they recognised that there was no other option but to do everything possible to get the warring parties to agree and then support any accord they reached in the hope of stabilising the country.
Mogherini is a former Italian foreign minister and her country has borne the brunt of the illegal immigrant influx from Libya and North Africa.
“The EU cannot accept the continuing tragic loss of life at sea of migrants departing from Libya,” the foreign ministers’ statement said.
“The irregular movement of people across Libya and through its borders has a dramatic effect on the lives of too many people, and destabilises countries on both shores of the Mediterranean,” it added.