North Africa LibyaMissions Operations

Tripoli… a difficult city. And an EU assistance mission on hold

(BRUSSELS2) The European border assistance mission (EUBAM Libya) is currently on hold. There is no other word. Part of the workforce was placed on leave or transferred to Malta a few days ago. Travel of staff remaining on site was limited (no travel outside Tripoli). “ Precautionary measures » the spokesperson for the High Representative told B2, which are linked to insecurity on site but also to a “small” stewardship problem. 

At issue: an arms theft – at Tripoli airport – of which EUBAM Libya's new contractor, Garda World, was the victim, which succeeded the company Argus Security. As a result, some of the planned security agents could not be deployed (because they were unarmed). A Libyan investigation is underway because the circumstances of the “theft” remain unclear, according to the first information collected on site and transmitted to the authorities in Brussels, the weapons were obtained on the basis of an “official” document. To our knowledge, this is the first time that an incident has reached such a serious level.

« The mission did not stop functioning, even though planned operational activities had to be postponed” are we assured, however, that the European diplomatic service. “The services concerned have been working on a solution that would allow the Mission to fully resume its activities in the coming days. » A temporary solution has already been found in the form ofe « loan of weapons "to the private security company" which allows it to provide close protection services to EUBAM personnel”. EUBAM Libya is therefore in the process of to increase (again) its operational staff in Tripoli ».

Commentary: Be careful not to let Libya down

Generally speaking, we can notice that this mission, launched almost a year ago (May 2013), has not really taken off yet. Few training activities were carried out. We cannot blame the European experts on site. The situation in Tripoli and Libya is very complex. Both politically and security-wise. But at some point we will have to ask ourselves fundamental questions. The cost of the mission is not negligible in fact: more than 30 million euros (*) – financed by the European budget – the majority of which is devoted to security (a necessity in the Libyan panorama. The country is considered on the risk scale, as equal or even higher than that of Afghanistan).

Is the format of a CSDP mission really justified today? Is there not reason to have a pool of external experts attached who would make it possible to supplement the delegation's staff with specialists in security and borders? Are all member states playing the European game? Or do some people prefer to play a more national game (which many observers say doesn't really work)?

Whatever the answers, the situation in Libya, due to its economic and strategic positioning, at the confluence of oil and immigration routes from East Africa and the Sahel, with certain lawless areas, where can terrorist “niches” develop which can then spread to neighboring countries (Mali, Algeria, Tunisia, etc.), cannot leave Europe indifferent for long? Even if Ukraine is a priority, it should not be the priority. Otherwise we risk finding ourselves with a “bomb” on our doorstep, just a stone's throw from Italy and the rest of Europe.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(*) to compare with the “common” costs of the military operation in CAR (financed by a contribution from Member States) which amounts to a little less than 26 million euros for 8-9 months.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).