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Austrian Chancellor tackles Operation Sophia

(B2) Sebastian Kurz is opposed to a resumption of the naval component of Operation “Sophia” (EUNAVFOR Med) even to enforce the arms embargo against Libya. And he says it clearly

Sebastian Kurz reviewing Austrian peacekeepers in Lebanon (credit: MOD Austria, Dragan Tatic, January 2016)

Arms control: a pretext

« The intention to restart the Sophia rescue mission under the pretext of monitoring compliance with the UN arms embargo is an obvious ploy. I clearly say that this will not happen. Austria, as well as a number of other countries, categorically reject it » says Sebastian Kurz in an interview with the German newspaper this weekend 'World on Sunday'.

The more practicable air route

The operation was “ practically ineffective between 2016 and 2019 ", to counter arms trafficking, even though it had this in its mandate, he denounces. The European Union, with partner countries, “ better focus on controlling arms smuggling into Libya, on the ground and in the air ».

A Sophia operation, an entry ticket for illegal immigrants

And to take up an old leitmotif: “ At heart, 'Sophia' has always been above all a rescue mission, which has become the ticket to Europe for thousands of illegal migrants. This led to additional deaths in the Mediterranean because that region attracted more migrants ».

Commentary: a statement to put into perspective?

The Austrian Chancellor is not wrong when he says that Operation Sophia has not been very effective in the past on the 'arms embargo' aspect. But when he ventures into the 'operational' field, he joins the camp of the lively 'There we go, we have to'. As a reminder, Vienna does not currently provide any air assets to Operation Sophia while other countries, such as Portugal (until recently), Poland or Luxembourg do so. As for the land component, we are waiting to see Austrian soldiers on the southern Libyan border, for example, to control arms trafficking. This kind of argument is rather a hypocritical way of discrediting oneself.

(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).