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Interview with Vincenzo Tagliaferri, Head of the EU Mission to Libya (EUBAM).
How is EUBAM Libya progressing in the midst of migration issues and the unstable situation Libya is facing?
EUBAM is the de facto EU presence in Tripoli. We are very pleased to be back in Libya after the Mission temporarily located to Tunisia in 2014. EUBAM is an EU CSDP tool supporting the Government of National Accord in the areas of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice to support the Libyan authorities to build capacities to fight organised crime and terrorism and manage their borders more effectively. There are many ambiguities, but the bottom line is that support to Libyan authorities positively impacts the country’s stability. A very good example is border security. The more orchestrated support the Libyans receive in order to manage the land and sea borders, the more comprehensive and efficient the Libyan approach will be. Needless to say that border management and security have an influence on fighting illicit activities, such as smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings, and the overall management of migration.
There is also a general need for coordination. The mission has spent 1.5 years to identify the needs of the Libyan authorities in the areas of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice. The process has been very intense and cordial, consequently the Libyans have devoted a lot of trust in the EU CSDP mission. This is something that we would like to re-invest into a coherent support landscape to the Libyan authorities. On this particular point, EUBAM Libya being currently the only EU entity on the ground, thus the Mission plays a key coordination role for the EU (e.g. EU funded projects) and other international actors within its areas of engagement.
Can you give some current examples on the support and coordination EUBAM is engaged in?
The mission has assisted our Libyan counterparts in designing a concept for an overall border management reform. Recently, EUBAM received an invitation from the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to continue supporting the planning and implementation of this reform process, labelled the ‘White Paper process’. To reply adequately to the Libyan request, we are currently asking EU Member States to assist EUBAM in this massive development project. This reform process is becoming the framework for a number of additional projects related to border security. The Mission’s close collaboration with our Libyan counterparts gives EUBAM the ability to guide similar projects and to streamline the Libyan requests in relation to the international communities assistance at land and at sea. A mutual approach creates greater results, especially in a dire and complex context.
There are many issues voiced on human rights violations and war crimes, how can EUBAM operate in such a context?
The Mission is part of the common and comprehensive foreign policy of the European Union. It is important to implement the necessary balance between due diligence for accountability and human rights with the requested support. The needs are evident, and the willingness of the EU to support to the Libyan Government of National Accord is clear, so the international community has to find ways of creating a common stance on these matters. Vetting processes are discussed and implemented with EU member states for Libyan participation purposes. In addition to this, the European External Action Service and the UN family are developing human rights due diligence tools together to secure the most appropriate way forward.
These policies are very significant in addressing the needs set by the current migration crisis, and the overall situation. EUBAM can provide correct tools and essential support to Libya’s efforts for a better border management, to counter smuggling, trafficking and organised crime, as well as to support the Libyan quest for a wider reform of its civilian security sector.
What is the EU Mission’s motivation to engage in this complex situation?
The EU's long-term policy for Libya and the region is focused on the development of stability. In this regard the Mission, as one of EU's tools to contribute to this, is fully committed to support the Libyans to counter the illegal aspects of migration and terrorism. This is the core of our Mission mandate, and indeed something that the Libyans deserve: to be accompanied in their stabilisation process towards a more stable and prosperous country.