European Union External Action

EU-Libya relations


Through diplomatic action and concrete support, the EU is assisting Libya's transition towards a stable, functioning country and is supporting UN mediation efforts in this regard. The EU underlines Libyan ownership of the political process and the importance of inclusiveness, notably through the participation of political and local actors, women and civil society.

The EU provides assistance to Libya and the Libyan people through a set of measures, including supporting a political transition and a negotiated settlement acceptable to all legitimate groups in the country, bilateral assistance, including humanitarian assistance and targeted assistance in the field of migration, as well as support through its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, especially EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia and EUBAM Libya.


Support for political transition and negotiated settlement

The EU has been supporting efforts to implement the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) agreed in December 2015, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA[1]) that was formed under the terms of the Agreement and local authorities through institution building, including the deployment of Stabilisation Facility funding to restore public infrastructure and improve inter-governmental coordination.

The EU works closely with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) under the leadership of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General to facilitate the implementation of the LPA and support mediation efforts to ensure all parties in Libya come together in a spirit of compromise and reconciliation to make the Agreement work and prevent conflict, in the interest of all Libyans.

The EU also supports the mediation activities of neighbours and regional partners including by coordinating efforts with the League of Arab States (LAS), the African Union (AU), and the United Nations (UN) in the framework of the Libya Quartet in order to advance the political process and assist Libya in its democratic transition. 


Bilateral assistance

The EU has been providing significant support to Libya since the beginning of the crisis.

EU support is provided mainly through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP).  

The EU currently has a package of close to €120 million in bilateral support to Libya in 37 projects across six sectors: civil society; governance; health; youth and education; migration and protection; and support to the political process, security and mediation. Many of these projects, which were suspended in 2014 due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation, have been resumed with the arrival of the GNA.


Humanitarian support

The European Commission provides impartial humanitarian aid to those that need it most, in full respect of international humanitarian law.

On 20 July 2017 the Commission announced an additional €10 million in humanitarian aid for those Libyans most in need for this year. This comes on top of funding in 2016 of 10.8 million. EU humanitarian funding aims to help humanitarian organisations respond to urgent needs, especially in terms of access to emergency health services and essential medicines. In terms of beneficiaries, the Commission's humanitarian aid in Libya focuses on the most vulnerable conflict-affected Libyans which are mainly internally displaced people. As with all the EU's humanitarian aid, funding will only be provided to humanitarian organisations and will be strictly monitored. Organisations receiving funding could include United Nations agencies, international organisations and NGOs.


Cooperation on migration and protection of migrants

The EU main priority regarding migration is to protect migrants in Libya and support local communities to cope with the challenge.

The EU's support to Libya on migration focusses on programmes that facilitate access to basic services, support to host communities by providing employment opportunities for both the local population and for migrants, and assistance and protection to vulnerable migrants. It also aims at helping to improve living conditions in detention centres and at disembarkation points, as well as assisting voluntary returns of stranded migrants.

The EU has mobilised €182 million on migration-related projects, €162 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) and €20 million as bilateral assistance.

A first project, implemented by a group of Non-Governmental Organisations led by the Danish Refugee Council, will help to strengthen protection and resilience of displaced populations in Libya - including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, internally displaced people - and build the capacity of local authorities to manage migration flows in a protection sensitive manner (€6 million).

A second programme is implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to support protection and voluntary humanitarian repatriation and reintegration of vulnerable migrants in Libya aiming to respond the magnitude of irregular migration attempts across the Mediterranean. This will be done through interventions in reception centres at points of disembarkation and migrant detention centres which are likewise underequipped to provide minimum decent living conditions and where there are reports of abuse and exploitation (€20 million).

A third project implemented by a number of international partners (worth €90 million) will focus on both protection and assistance to those in need, and stabilisation of local communities:

  1. Protection and assistance for all those in need, with the aim to expand the protection space in Libya, with a particular focus on migrants and refugees - to be implemented by the IOM, UNHCR and UNICEF.
  2. Stabilisation, aiming at supporting socio-economic development at municipal level and local governance, in order to better integrate migrants, internally displaced persons and returnees and stabilise host communities - implemented by UNDP, GIZ, IOM and UNICEF

As part of the Commission's Action Plan to support Italy from 4 July 2017, a fourth project, implemented by the Italian Ministry of Interior, will aim at stepping up activities in support of the Libyan Border and Coastguards in order to enhance their capacity to effectively manage the country's borders (€46 million). The programme will have a particular focus in the Southern regions of the country.


CSDP Missions and Operations

The EU is engaged in providing focussed support to Libya through its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations: EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia, EUBAM Libya and the EU Liaison and Planning Cell.


EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia

EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia was launched in June 2015 as part of the EU's broader action to provide a comprehensive response to the global migration and refugee crisis and to encourage a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya. It aims at countering human trafficking and smuggling by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting the smugglers business model. So far the Operation contributed to the apprehension of dozens of suspected smugglers and traffickers and has neutralised more than 475 assets. While operating on the high seas off the coast of Libya, Operation Sophia has also rescued more than 40 000 lives.

In June 2016, Operation Sophia's mandate was broadened to include two supporting tasks, namely capacity building and training of the Libyan Navy and Coastguard, and contributing to information sharing and contribution to the implementation of the UN arms embargo in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2292. This addition to the original mandate was underpinned by the objective to contribute to the return of stability, both off and along the coast of Libya. On the one hand, the contribution to the fight against weapons smuggling on the high seas, as defined under UNSCR 2292, aims at preventing the security situation from deteriorating further. On the other hand, the decision to support the building of a Libyan coastguard capacity aims at enhancing the Libyan Navy and Coastguard's ability to disrupt smuggling and trafficking activities, perform search and rescue activities and improve overall security in Libyan territorial waters.

The training of the Coastguard is being implemented in three packages. Operation Sophia has been able to complete training for an initial 136 trainees, including 39 personnel for patrol boat crews. An offer for subsequent modules was recently confirmed by Italy and Spain. A total of 92 names were put forward by the Libyan authorities. These trainees are expected to start the training in Italy in mid-September 2017, pending ongoing vetting procedures.

On 25 July 2017 the Council extended the mandate of Operation Sophia until 31 December 2018 and also amended the Operation's mandate to set up a monitoring mechanism of trainees, to ensure the long-term efficiency of the training of the Libyan coastguards, conduct new surveillance activities and gather information on illegal trafficking of oil exports from Libya in accordance with UNSCR 2146 (2014) and 2362 (2017), as well as to enhance the possibilities for sharing information on human trafficking with member states' law enforcement agencies, FRONTEX and EUROPOL.



EUBAM Libya was initially launched in May 2013 as an integrated border management mission in Libya. The mission was downsized in 2014 due to the deteriorating security situation in the country and relocated to Tunis. In February 2016, its mandate was amended to provide for a possible civilian capacity building and assistance crisis management mission in the field of security sector reform, focussing on police, criminal justice, border security and migration.

On 17 July 2017, the Council extended the mandate of EUBAM Libya until 31 December 2018 to plan for a possible non-executive CSDP mission providing advice and capacity building in the fields of border management, law enforcement and criminal justice. This potential future civilian mission would be conducted at the request of and in full ownership of the legitimate Libyan authorities.

EUBAM Libya has also been mandated to progressively engage with and assist the Libyan authorities in a number of priority areas related to border management, law enforcement and the broader criminal justice system, with particular emphasis on the South of Libya. EUBAM Libya co-operates closely with, and contributes to, the efforts of UNSMIL, liaising with Libyan authorities and other relevant security interlocutors.

The mission is currently located in Tunis with weekly travels to Tripoli. In parallel the Mission is working towards establishing a light presence in Tripoli, including overnight stay.


EULPC (EU Liaison and Planning Cell)

UNSMIL leads international efforts to support the peace and security process in Libya. The main objective for the EULPC is to support UNSMIL on operationalising the Libya security track, working closely together with the UNSMIL Security Infrastructure Division (SID). The EULPC is providing vital military planning and intelligence capacity to the UNSMIL SID currently focussing on the implementation of the Tripoli Security Plan, the Presidential Guard and the UN plan to return to Libya.

The EULPC consists of eight military planners under the lead of the Defence Adviser to the Head of the EU Delegation to Libya.


[1] The UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has been internationally recognised as the sole legitimate government of Libya, as endorsed in UN Security Council Resolutions 2259 and 2278.