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EUNAVFOR Med operation plan revealed by Wikileaks. Truly ?

WikileaksPlanOperation(BRUSSELS2) Wikileaks has just revealed a “secret” document, which he presents as the “plan” for the future military operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med) “against refugee boats”. A document that Steve Peers of the University of Essex then commented on, with varying degrees of happiness. A jumble of preconceived ideas, bordering on blatant lies...

Confusing an operation plan and an opinion on a concept

We learned about Julian Assange's organization a little more perceptive, more judicious... The authors of the leak seem a little uneducated in matters of military planning, or even incapable of reading this document, or perhaps they wanted to do a "coup" there where there was no real place to be.

Firstly, the operation mounted by the Europeans is not intended to “fight refugee boats” but aims to counter traffickers. To say the opposite is to confuse the sheep and the wolf. Or it would be pretending that all refugees are traffickers! It's not very serious... (trap in which are fell my two colleagues from Le Parisien).

Second, the two leaked documents are not at all the EU's “operation plan” as presented. But the “opinions” of two “working” groups of the Member States — on the one hand the experts of the politico-military group (GPM), on the other hand the military representatives present at the Military Committee — on the draft management concept of crises which was submitted to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and approved on May 18. It will not be an insult to the authors of these documents to say that they are “only one link” in a decision-making system, quite long and complex, which goes from a first, more political document, weaving together different options, and a mandate given by the European Council, to the Operation Plan itself, and to the decision to launch the operation, through a United Nations resolution which provides the international legal basis for the intervention. To see it as a plan is to be simply ignorant of the content of what a “Plan” is.

Thirdly, these documents are intended to give the future operation commander guidance in the future planning of the operation by emphasizing a few important points or still requiring clarification: intelligence (read: EUNAVFOR Med: Why is intelligence important? Why little problem of means?). Speech is quite free there, and fortunately, because it allows you to ask all the questions, including those that could be taboo, in an operation that has a real complexity.

The recommendations made are quite logical and sensible. It is about having a solid legal basis to be able to apprehend and bring traffickers to justice, to clearly define what a migrant, a refugee and a trafficker are. It identifies possible risks in certain areas (near Libya)… and recommends having a solid protection force and robust rules of engagement. Which is also quite logical. Finally, he recommends having thorough communication, which is also called public diplomacy in another jargon. Which is rather classic in any military operation. (Also read about the Club: EUNAVFOR Med, a complex operation, also legal)

The (wobbly) analysis of a law professor…

Seeing behind all this a secret EU plan to set foot in Libya, as the University of Sussex professor Steve Peers, specialist in European constitutional law, then details, the prelude to a land operation in Libya is therefore rather daring and is as far from analysis as a cow's udder is from a glass of champagne (and even then 🙂

“A EU military planning document reiterates that the EU's new anti-smuggling operation could result in a ground conflict in Libya that leads to the loss of life of soldiers, refugees and smugglers, and destabilizes Libya in the process” writes Steve Peers in his text of 3 pages to download on State watch.

Um... Until further notice, Libya is not really a peaceful land, a dream place for family vacations where the European Union would come to cause trouble and storm... Professor Steve Peers seems to have been wrong objective on this operation which, even if it uses military means, remains a “police at sea” operation and not a “military intervention in Libya”.

What European experts say, in fact, is that military activity must be precisely calibrated, particularly in Libyan internal waters, to avoid destabilizing an ongoing political process by causing collateral damage, not to postpone legitimate economic activities (NB: we are thinking in particular of fishing activities) or create the perception of having chosen a party. (NB Which is a real risk. Attacking certain traffickers, destroying their means (ships), can be taken by certain militias who protect these means, benefit from them, or even organize the trafficking in one way or another is indeed a risk). This remark is rather sensible...

“The IMD should also emphasize the need to calibrate military activity with great care, particularly within Libyan internal waters or ashore, in order to avoid destabilizing the political process by causing collateral damage, disrupting legitimate economic activity or creating a perception of having chosen sides

Not content with what he has done, Steve Peers continues his “analysis” (! if you can call it an analysis). he questions the fact that everything is not yet precise in this “plan”, that “military and political orientations must still be given”, “the rules of engagement do not yet exist”…

The document explicitly acknowledges that the operation has no clear end point: “the political End State is not clearly defined” This should disturb anyone who has studied previous military operations that have gone wrong or spun out of control due to lack of clarity on what the final objectives are. Indeed, the document makes clear that most of the details of the ongoing operation have yet to be worked out

There we are no longer in error of analysis, we are in crass ignorance. The European decision-making process is, in fact, quite well-established and even quite procedural. To go quickly, the Crisis Management Concept (CMC) – which was the subject of two opinions (revealed by Wikileaks) is intended to set out the various issues of a crisis, the main means of responding to them, and the main questions that need to be resolved. It precedes a decision by ministers to establish a mission. Both were approved by ministers on May 18. Then will come military instructions, orientations, a concept of operation, an operation plan, rules of engagement… It is obvious that at this stage a certain number of questions still remain to be resolved. The European authorities make no secret of it. General de Rousiers, president of the EU military committee, said very officially, on May 19 (at the end of the meeting with the EU military Chiefs of Staff, that “ it is a complex operation in a complex environment »

Regretting that these rules have not been defined is like worrying about not seeing the application circular published while the first paragraph of the law has not yet been voted on. Proclaiming oneself a “professor of law” to come out with such a conclusion is worthy of the Lépine competition for the worst copy. I don't know where Steve Peers teaches, but in any European university worthy of the name, such nonsense would earn its author a nice zero point and a return to basics...

Comment: taking one or two sentences to gloss without taking into account the context in which these sentences are posed and overinterpreting certain words to derive not what is but what we think, is not really worthy of an academic analysis , nor a journalistic comment. We can frankly wonder what is the goal sought by these authors, in search of sensationalism. Do they want human trafficking to continue, for shipwrecks to continue, for Europe to remain inactive in the face of these tragedies on the one hand, and this threat on the other?

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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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).