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Belgium could cease all contribution to Operation Sophia in 2019

(B2 – exclusive) The Belgian government does not believe that the EU operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med aka Sophia) is really effective. No ship was present in 2018, none will be in 2019. The presence of officers at Rome HQ could even be interrupted on January 1st. A symbolic withdrawal for a country which was one of the first contributors
(credit: Belgian navy / Jorn Urbain)

No contribution in ships

The Belgian defense did not see fit to contribute by providing ships this year. A position that she intends to reiterate in 2019, as confirmed by Minister Steven Vandeput during an interview with B2 at the end of August. “ We did not contribute with ships this year and we will hold the same position next year. »

A suboptimal operation

A question of efficiency judges the minister (N-VA). “ For me, this operation is still suboptimal. I said it in Vienna [Editor's note during the informal meeting of Defense Ministers]. Because we never moved on to phases 2b and 3 (as planned) which concern the fight against smugglers. That's the problem, this operation is not yet effective. »

Alternate solutions

“There is talk of adding the control of oil flows to the mandate of the operation, but this ultimately remains incidental to the main objective. Everyone is focused on Coast Guard training. But this appears to be an ersatz solution, failing to move on to phases 2b and 3.”

No contribution as long as there is no intervention in territorial waters

Belgium “will therefore contribute when we move to phase 2b and 3 [with the possibility for ships to intervene in Libyan territorial waters and on land]. Otherwise, it's not much use. ". Read the full interview: Peace Facility, Pesco, Sophia… There are still points to clarify (Steven Vandeput)

End of all participation in 2019

Belgium still retains a few officers on the staff of the operation in Rome. But it's only a matter of months, according to our information. A decision is being prepared. And it could lead to not proposing to renew this Belgian presence in the general staff. Thus, on January XNUMX, Belgium would no longer formally participate in Sophia in terms of personnel and resources, but only financially. via the Athena mechanism. 

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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).