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Operation Irini soon to be operational (v4)

(B2) The Irini operation will finally be able to start its activities. It is responsible for monitoring the arms embargo off Libya and takes over from Operation Sophia

A Luxembourg maritime patrol aircraft (credit: EUNAVFOR Med Sophia / B2 archives)

The latest force generation conference for the new EU operation in the Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med Irini) held yesterday (28 April) was more successful than the first (1). " Despite the current difficult context”, the " vast majority of Member States have been able to commit to providing personal and material resources said EEAS spokesman Peter Stano on Wednesday (April 29).

The initial operational capability

Three ships and four planes to start

According to our information, drawn from good sources, three countries — Italy, Greece and France (with a frigate) — should provide the first ships to EUNAVFOR Med. While Poland, Luxembourg, Germany and France will provide air resources. This for the initial phase which has not yet started concretely. This could be the case in the next few days: next week perhaps, or at least in the first fortnight of May.

A contribution to the staff

Several other countries have confirmed to B2 their participation, but only with personnel deployed to the operations headquarters located in Rome (or in the area): Austria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Sweden, etc.

First flights

The first overflights of the area of ​​operation took place in the last days of April, with a Luxembourg Merlin, as confirmed to us by an official from the Grand Duchy. Luxembourg has, in fact, entered into a contract with the local company Wings & Men SA (2), as it had done in the past with Operation EUNAVFOR Med (Sophia), which has aircraft of this type based in Sigonella (3).

Full operational capability not before summer

Other means should come in support, or relay the first, later. Germany has thus finally promised not only a P3 Orion aircraft and its crew for the initial phase, but also a ship which will only arrive from August. Slovenia could also contribute with its patrol boat Triglav 11, as confirmed to us by an official in Ljubljana. This will allow the declaration of full operational capability for the operation.

A discussion of leadership

A Franco-Italian command for the operation

If the operation commander is known (several weeks already for B2 readers read: Booklet 07.02.2020), in the person of the Italian rear-admiral Fabio Agostini, and that the position of number 2 of the operation remains assigned (as to Sophia) to a Frenchman, rear-admiral Jean-Michel Martinet, it remains to be determined who will have command of the force at sea.

A ship and a Greek commander for the force?

Athens, which has offered its ports in particular for the landing of any people (migrants, refugees) gathered at sea, claims a significant share in the command. A point that still gets stuck and has already sparked several discussions since mid-February (read: A change of command for EUNAVFOR Med (formerly Sophia) cannot be ruled out). This could, indeed, pose some concerns in the event of control of Turkish ships transporting weapons to the government of Tripoli. So everything is not quite settled yet.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. Lire: EUNAVFOR Med Irini operation without ships, for now. Force generation continues
  2. The Luxembourg government contractor changed in mid-February (previously CAE Aviation).
  3. The site itamilradar had spotted on Sunday (26 April) a Fairchild Merlin IVC type aircraft (registered N919CK) scouting off the coast of Libya. He had come in particular to observe a Turkish container, the Parpali (IMO 9134701), reported Monday (April 27) a journalist from Radio Radicale.

Read our file No. 81. The arms embargo control operation off Libya EUNAVFOR Med IRINI

Updated 30.4 with additions on the countries participating in the staff, clarification on the Luxembourg aircraft, the command and the ships involved.

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).