Remarks by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini during the press conference following the Quartet Meeting on Libya
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Q1 : My question to Mme Mogherini, with regards to the agreement signed between Rome and Libya last November on illegal migration, could we expand this agreement to include EU countries with the North-African countries?
HR/VP Mogherini. Well, first of all, I think you refer to the Agreement that was signed in January, I would not obviously comment on something that is bilateral between one of our Member States and the Libyan authorities but that agreement has been welcomed by the European Union, Heads of States and Governments and we have decided on our side to have an intensified cooperation with the Libyan authorities on managing together the dramatic situation of the migratory flows.
I would like to underline here the fact that every time we discuss Libya, the question that comes to the European Union is always migration-related. I understand very well the reasons for that but I would like to underline very clearly that the European Union work and attention and priority on the Libyan crisis is something we do not see purely through the migration-issue lens. This is a humanitarian tragedy, we feel the responsibility to tackle, together with our Libyan friends but also together with our African friends and our Arab friends and the United Nations. Also because the trafficking and smuggling business is part of one of the problems that Libya is facing in this moment and the loss of lives both inside Libya - before the flow goes to Libya and in the sea – is something we all have to take responsibility for to stop it – the European Union is doing its part – and we are trying to increase the level of effectiveness of our work in that respect – saving lives first of all.
But I would like to take this opportunity to say that our work on Libya, with Libya, for Libya is not to be seen through this lens – this is not the way Europeans see it and I hope that this can be also the way that our Arab and Libyan friends understand.
And this is why I take the opportunity of having the floor to thank the Secretary General, first of all for having expressed our united and common position, but also for the invitation that the League of Arab States, the African Union, the United Nations extended to the European Union to join this format. I believe that the four of us working together is a very important sign of unity from our side, that we hope can accompany and encourage a Libyan unity to put an end to the crisis. And the fact that we decided to work in this format also in the future, coordinate positions, coordinate actions, I believe can be something extremely helpful if the Libyans will take their own responsibility to come together. We will be there together with all our different instruments and positions and Member States to support and accompany them.
Q2: For the European Union, thank you very much for joining the Quartet in order to find a solution to the Libyan, but what in your mind, do you have in order to help the Libyan people?
HR/VP Mogherini : First of all, for the European Union and for all the 28 Member States of the European Union, Libya is a vital priority. We have always been working with all our Libyan friends to accompany them in a respectful manner, in a process that has to be, as Martin [Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya] has said, a Libyan process. So the European attitude is for sure a respectful one but accompanying and supporting the Libyans as they try to come together and find the way forward to unite the country. We have also a very relevant practical package of support measures that is ongoing, with €120 million that are being invested in projects covering the health sector, governance, security but also civil society, protection of people, youth and education. So we are implementing projects on the ground wherever possible to improve the lives of the Libyans on the ground, the daily life of what we would call ordinary Libyans that have been suffering so far too long from a dramatic situation in the country . We wish that this support can even increase with the adequate interlocutors, from an institutional perspective, covering the entire country. But I give you just a couple of examples of projects we are running or help that we are providing, or operations we are establishing. I was myself handing over diplomas to the first ninety Libyan coastguards that we trained on board of our European Union vessels in the Mediterranean. In this way reinforcing the capacity of the Libyan authorities to control the territorial waters of Libya, this has a relevance for securing the waters, but also this has relevance to dismantle the traffickers' networks and save lives where they are lost in this moment. It has also an economic impact, because if the territorial waters of Libya are secured, the fishery activities can restart in safety; and this has an impact on the economic life of so many coastal communities in the country. In the same manner, we are supporting the delivery of basic services locally; we are working very much with the municipalities of Libya now since many years to support the delivery of basic services to the population. But also, we have a strong political engagement and again, being part of this format for us is key to as, I said accompany, respectfully but with all our potential of incentives and leverage, the Libyans coming together to run their country. This is why, the Secretary General hinted at that, we would be honoured to host the next Quartet meeting in Brussels in the coming weeks. I would also be honoured to address the League of Arab States' Summit in Amman in a few weeks' time. I really believe that the Arabs, the Europeans, the Africans, within and under the leadership and umbrella of the United Nations, can really create the space for Libyans to unite. If we unite for their support, they will find the political will and the space to do so as well.
Q3: How does Europe view reported growing Russian involvement in the Libyan conflict?
HR/VP Mogherini: It does not surprise me at all and it does not surprise us at all. Russia being a very important permanent member of the Security Council, my assessment has been that Russia has always been highly involved in the discussions but also in the work on the Libyan file but this is more for the UN Representative [Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Martin Kobler] to mention.
What I can add is that I had myself several times and on several occasions – including very recently – the opportunity to discuss with my Russian counterpart, Minister [of foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey] Lavrov, specifically about Libya. And I can say that it seems to me that we share the same concerns about the risks of the situation getting worse, especially on the security side or in terms of the division of the country, and that we see the same need to have a space for the Libyans to unite.
There is no way in which the country can be ruled from one side against the other and I think this is a common basis on which we can work. I would also like to add that the Russian Federation in New York one year and a half ago supported in the UN Security Council the mandate given to the European Union military operation in the Mediterranean [EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia] to dismantle the traffickers’ networks and that we are operating also on the basis of that mandate that the Russian Federation at that time contributed to shape.
So, I would say that for sure we do not see in identical manners on every single aspect of the Libyan file but for sure there is a common ground for common action and there is a constant engagement ongoing between the European Union and the Russian Federation as it is the case with other actors that are relevant to the Libyan crisis.
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