At the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, High Representative Federica Mogherini discussed her recent visit to Tripoli, where she met the Libyan Prime Minister, UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé and representatives of UN agencies and Libyan beneficiaries of EU financed projects. During the meetings, the High Representative discussed the EU’s support to the country and the most effective ways to further strengthen it. The European Union is the main provider of assistance to improve the lives of Libyan citizens and help them rebuild their country politically, socially and economically.
"Let me remind you that we have with Libya a strong political partnership, strong EU support for the country itself, with over €350 million of ongoing programs financed by the European Union and mainly run by UN agencies and civil society in Libya, including a strong component on women empowerment," the High Representative said at the press conference following the meeting with the EU Foreign Ministers.
Mogherini's visit to Tripoli was also an occasion to inaugurate the EU offices that will host the EU Border Assistance Mission in Libya – the mission supporting Libyan authorities in their work on managing particularly their land borders - and the incoming diplomatic presence of the EU Delegation to Libya.
"The strong signal we are giving is that the European Union, which has always been present in Libya through political and financial support, is now also physically back in Tripoli. So our daily work with the Libyan authorities, with the municipalities, with the civil society, with the UN agencies is going to be strengthened on a daily basis and this was welcomed by all Ministers," Mogherini said.
Most of the conversation focused on Libya itself and the work that the EU is doing with the Libyan authorities and with the Libyan people.
High Representative Mogherini stressed the EU support to the political process in Libya, praising the work of the UN Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salamé to prepare the elections. "We believe that the work towards elections must be accelerated and we are supporting it ourselves; we are supporting the Electoral Commission and we believe that a proper constitutional and legal framework must be prepared before the elections take place," Mogherini said.
The Ministers also worked on the economic situation in Libya. "That is what counts the most for the Libyan people," Mogherini said addressing the recent crisis on the diversion of resources in the Oil Crescent.
"Luckily - and thanks to a lot of work that has been done in a coordinated manner - the current crisis has been overcome. But we agreed, both with our Libyan counterparts but also with the [Foreign Affairs] Ministers today, that we will increase our work together with the United Nations to end distortions of revenues and ensure that the revenues deriving from oil can be distributed in a transparent manner," High Representative Mogherini said.
Migration, Mogherini said, is not the main or sole focus of our work with Libya. It is, however, a work that is ongoing and that it is producing results.
After today's meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council High Representative said that "we agreed with the Ministers to keep our focus based on cooperation and partnership with Libya, but most of all with the United Nations Agencies – the IOM and the UNHCR – and the African Union". In the last six months 28,000 migrants have been voluntarily returned in an assisted manner – by the IOM and with the EU's financial support – from Libya to their countries of origin. "This work needs to be sustained and consolidated", the High Representative stressed. More than 52,000 refugees and vulnerable migrants have received direct assistance and 26,000 have received medical assistance. Another important element of joint efforts is that arrivals from Libya to the EU have decreased by 85%, compared to the same period of last year.
During her visit to Libya, High Representative Federica Mogherini also discussed the EU's support and the ongoing work in providing protection and assistance to migrants, refugees and internally displaced people. Through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa there are 7 programmes worth EUR 266 million in place to save the lives and protect the rights of migrants and refugees, ensure development and stability of host communities as well as fight smuggling. This month, the EU decided to reinforce its support to the protection of refugees and migrants in Libya at disembarkation points, in detention centres as well as in southern desert areas and urban settings. The programme will be implemented together with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The close cooperation of the EU with the Libyan authorities and the UN agencies – UNHCR and IOM – has already brought important results.
At the European Council Meeting of June the High Representative proposed to reinforce the work the EU is doing with the Libyan coastguards and underlined that "there is more we can do in this field, if Member States are ready to support more the Operation [Sophia]". The High Representative further discussed with Prime Minister Sarraj the EU's training of the Libyan coast guard through Operation Sophia to enhance their capacity to carry out search and rescue operations in Libyan territorial waters.