European Union External Action

EU-Libya relations

Bruxelles, 22/01/2018 - 10:30, UNIQUE ID: 170125_11

Factsheet on the relations between Libya and the European Union


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

The EU provides assistance to Libya through a specific set of measures tailored to the needs of the Libyan people in particular, with regards to restoring effective governance and improving socio-economic conditions. Through partners on the ground, such as the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the EU is stepping up its humanitarian assistance to respond to migration challenges in Libya. The EU is also supporting Libyan authorities through its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations, EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia and EUBAM Libya.

Support for political transition and negotiated settlement

The EU firmly supports the UN led mediation process and the efforts of Special Representative of the Secretary General Ghassan Salamé to implement the UN Action Plan on Libya and bring about the lasting solution to the political crisis. The EU works closely with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) under the leadership of the Special Representative to support the implementation of the Libyan political agreement, consolidation of governance, security and economic arrangements and assist in helping Libyans to prepare for the electoral process.

The EU has been supporting the Government of National Accord (GNA[1]) through a comprehensive cooperation package in the process of institution building and in improving socio-economic conditions for all Libyans. Through the Stabilisation Facility[2] the EU works towards restoring public infrastructure and advance inter-governmental coordination.

The EU also engages with 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 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.

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 activities through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP).

Through ENI projects the EU contributes to the capacity building of Libyan Institutions at national and local level in the areas of public administration, socio-economic development and the health sector.

In 2017, a special measure, worth €10 million, focussing on urgent needs in the health sector, such as maternal health, blood transfusion services, nurse training, mental health and non-communicable disease prevention was adopted.

A significant and comprehensive series of actions has been set up by the EU to support civil society in the country. The programme "Support to civil society in Libya" allocated €3 million promoting and facilitating dialogue between civil society representatives with national and local authorities.

The programme "Civil Initiatives Libya" has mobilised more than €5 million to set up 4 training centres across the country (Benghazi, Tripoli, Misrata and Sabha) and to support the development and sustainability of civil society organisations.

Humanitarian support

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

The EU provided humanitarian funding worth €10 million in 2017 and €10.8 in 2016. Assistance goes to Libyans displaced by conflict and helps the most vulnerable gain access to primary health care and emergency medicines, education in emergencies, psychosocial support, food assistance and other essential support.

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 to their countries of origin and support the evacuation of those in need of international protection.

The EU has mobilised €286 million on migration-related projects, €266 million under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) implemented by UN agencies, EU Member States and NGOs, and €20 million as bilateral assistance.

Projects in place focus on strengthening protection and resilience of displaced populations in Libya - including refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, internally displaced people – at points of disembarkation and in migrant detention centres. In parallel, projects are under way to build the capacity of local authorities to manage migration flows in a protection sensitive manner. In order to better build up resilience of host communities and better integrate migrants, IDPs and returnees, the EU supports socio-economic development at municipal level and local governance. 

In the margins of the EU – African Union Summit in November 2017, the EU together with the African Union, and the United Nations set up a joint Task Force to accelerate both the programme of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for assisted voluntary returns and the emergency transit mechanism of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Leaders also adopted a Joint Statement on the Migrant Situation in Libya.

Since 2017, the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa contributed to the voluntary humanitarian return of more than 28,000 vulnerable migrants to their homes, supported with reintegration assistance in their countries of origin. Also the emergency transit mechanism through the UNHCR has been launched and allowed for the evacuation of almost 1,800 people up to date.

With support from the EU, the IOM and the UNHCR are also carrying out protection and assistance in detention centres, disembarkation points and in communities. Within this support, local families are also benefitting from assistance provided by these organisations. More than 41,000 migrants have been provided essential household items (such as blankets and mattresses) and hygiene kits and over 25,500 migrants have received medical assistance outside and inside detention centres.

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. The CSDP actions in Libya complement and are coordinated with those in the Sahel.

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. It aims at countering human trafficking and smuggling by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting their business model. Operation Sophia has so far contributed to the apprehension of over 151 suspected smugglers and traffickers and has neutralised close to 551 assets. While operating off the coast of Libya on the high seas, Operation Sophia has also been involved in rescuing almost 44,800 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.

In view of complementing broader efforts to disrupt the business model of the smugglers and traffickers both on land and at sea, on 25 July 2017, the Council prolonged Operation Sophia for a further 17 months until 31 December 2018 and amended the mandate to set up a monitoring mechanism of trainees, aimed at  ensuring long-term efficiency of the training provided; to 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 sharing information on human trafficking with Member States' law enforcement agencies, FRONTEX and EUROPOL.

To date, Operation Sophia has been able to provide training both at sea and in Member States facilities for a total of 213 Libyan personnel.


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. 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. In parallel, the mission has established a light presence in Tripoli, including overnight stays, which has increased the capacity to engage further with the Libyan authorities.

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 all those military and police aspects of the Libya security track, working closely together with the UNSMIL Security Institutions 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 support to further activities to perform once UN’s relocation to Libya will be completed. As the main security analysis provider for the International Community in Tunis with a high level of situational awareness and knowledge of politico-security dynamics, the EULPC is also tasked to inform planning for a potential CSDP/Security engagement in Libya.

The EULPC consists of eight military planners under the lead of the Security Expert 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, and endorsed by the UN Security Council Resolutions 2259 and 2278.

[2] EU Stabilisation Facility funding amounts to €12 million for 2016-2019. It aims notably at supporting the rehabilitation of sewage systems, schools and universities.


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

[2] EU Stabilisation Facility funding amounts to €12 million for 2016-2019. It aims notably at supporting the rehabilitation of sewage systems, schools and universities.