The European Union announced it will deploy naval vessels in order to enforce the arms embargo on Libya, in a sign that Europe seeks an enhanced role in the ongoing conflict. At a meeting Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed to launch a range of capabilities, including aerial, spacial and maritime ones, in order to monitor and enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya.
According to Bloomberg, talks over the initiative stalled due to a fear among some member states that African migrants making their way from Libya to Europe would take advantage of the EU presence at sea to purposefully get rescued, forcing the vessels to bring them to EU ports. A previous EU naval operation, Sophia, was scrapped due to the concerns of certain EU states that migrants were using such tactics. However, those hesitant states, such as Austria and Italy, said they were comfortable with the new mission, whose focus will be the arms embargo, and will place "clear safeguards against misuse by human traffickers", according to Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg.
EU foreign policy head Josep Borrel, when asked how the naval force would respond to Russian, Turkish or other efforts to break the embargo, noted "they won't be there for a promenade". Borrel went on to say that the EU wishes to launch the operation by the end of March.
The initiative and deployment would be a major test to gauge the EU's ambition to return to global affairs, as foreign and regional powers become increasingly entangled and invested in Europe's immediate neighbour to the south.