The noted think-tank – the International Crisis Group, published a recommended list of foreign policy priorities for the incoming EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. These are areas where, according to the ICG, “European leadership can combine political, financial and technical resources to rebuild and sustain peace and stability”.
The incoming High Representative, essentially the EU’s top diplomat, is former Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell, who succeeds Federica Mogherini in the position. Europe faces many challenges to European, regional and global security. The ICG recommends Borrell and the EU focus on preventing conflict, forge greater cohesion on foreign policy among the EU members, and encourage better “follow-through” once a policy is decided upon. Most importantly, the ICG says, is for Borrell to identify those crises in which the EU can best play a positive and constructive role.
Second among this list of 7 is Libya.
Libya is of course, “on Europe’s doorstep”. The ICG describes a situation in which “neither side appears read to embark on talks…Haftar appears convinced that odds are in his favour to gain the upper hand via military means.”
The ICG also notes that the conflict is becoming “increasingly internationalised, reflecting geopolitical divides throughout the Middle East and beyond.” The increasing foreign intervention and support has “prolonged this proxy war”.
The ICG points out that the “EU and its member states have struggled to develop an effective approach to the Libyan conflict”. Part of this is that different member states support different sides – Italy supports the GNA, mostly to limit the flow of migrants who primarily were landing in Italy, while France seems to support Haftar’s LNA more, although the two are increasing their coordination. Secondly, the ICG points out that the EU efforts and policy until now focused less on ending the conflict but rather limiting it from impacting Europe, especially the inflow of migrants. Thus, EU assistance, in large part, has been more technical in nature and not focused enough on finding a political solution or backing one side over the other.
Germany has recently increased its efforts, by promoting the “Berlin Process”, together with UN envoy to Libya, to promote a cease fire and encouraging all international actors to uphold the UN arms embargo, which nobody really is. However, these have not wielded results as of yet. The “Berlin Conference” was to be held in November, but has since been pushed back to early 2020. In the meantime, the LNA continues its military campaign, now backed by Russia and Russian fighters, while Turkey seems set on upping its military support for the GNA. Turkey’s agreement on maritime borders with Libya have upset the region further, especially Greece and Egypt. The region should be more united and instead it has become more divided as a result of this.
The ICG calls on Borrell and the EU to “focus on operational issues that bedevilled his predecessor. For one, the ICG calls on the EU to reinvigorate “Operation Sophia”, a maritime operation to prevent the flow of arms into Libya and help save migrants in distress. The EU should also reopen its delegation to Tripoli while making clear to all sides involved that it will back the German and UN effort to reach a “comprehensive military, political and economic settlement that can end this conflict.”
The ICG also includes Sudan, Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, Syria and Ethiopia on its list of recommended foreign policy priorities for the EU.