Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


61 Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya)

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny (decision reported on 14 May 2014); further information requested
Document detailsCouncil Decision providing for six-month mandate extension
Legal baseArticles 28, 42(4) and 43(2) TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document number(36822), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

61.1 EUBAM Libya (the European Union Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission in Libya) was established in May 2013, with a two-year mandate. The aim is to support the Libyan authorities to develop capacity for enhancing the security of their borders in the short term and a broader Integrated Border Management (IBM) strategy in the longer term. The total two-year cost is €56.5 million (£40.1 million).

61.2 Despite the dire security situation, which was far worse than when it was set up in May 2013, the European External Action Service (EEAS) nonetheless proposed in May 2014 a two-year extension, until Spring 2017. Instead, the Mission was down-sized in August 2014 and the residue relocated to neighbouring Tunis; and the EEAS began a further Review.

61.3 Last autumn, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) reported that the Review was to "be released" in December and "formally considered in January", with "a final decision on the future of the mission being taken in February". The options included mission closure (one for which the previous Committee had pressed): but it also included others (including putting it in "sleeper" mode, in which EUBAM Rafah has been for the past seven years[ 449]). He undertook to write with more details on the future of this mission "once this document has been discussed".

61.4 The previous Committee noted the systemic reluctance to contemplate closing a mission because of subsequent unfavourable developments; the consequential wider implications of the outcome of this review; and the Minister's oft-professed commitment to enhanced scrutiny of CFSP; and said that it would be important that it had an opportunity to consider the likely findings, and that it therefore expected to hear further from him in January, and well before any final decision was taken.[ 450]

61.5 This draft Council decision extends the mandate of EUBAM Libya by a further six months, from 21 May 2015 to 21 November 2015. Mission activities will be funded by the existing "Year 2" budget of €26,200,000 (£18,605,000) which will now cover the period 22 May 2014 to 21 November 2015.

61.6 The Minister for Europe recalls that in October 2014, the mission began down-sizing from 57 to a core team of 17, and explains that:

—  following Political and Security Committee (PSC) discussions on 14 January 2015 in which Member States indicated support for suspension of EUBAM Libya, the mission was directed to cease planning on all training capacity delivery;

—  on 17 February, the PSC decided that the mission should further down-size, from 17 staff to 3, by 31 March 2015;

—  and the mission is now "on hold".

61.7 The Minister explains that the 21 April Foreign Affairs Council considered the future of EUBAM in the context of wider discussions on Libya, and:

—  against the background of the options for EUBAM within the ISR, Member States were divided;

—  some pushed for closure, while others argued that this would send the wrong message about the extent of the EU's intentions at a time when the EU was looking to support a possible Government of National Unity;

—  the Foreign Secretary accepted the finally-agreed compromise option, whereby the mission should continue with a six month mandate, whilst remaining in its current suspended state;

—  before the mandate expiry on 21 November 2015, Member States will reconsider the mission's future against the background of developments in the political and security situation; and the EU's wider strategy to address the migration issue in the Mediterranean; and

—  this short-term extension will "allow the EU to progress thinking on appropriate action to support Libya and enable us to take a more considered view on the long-term future of EUBAM".

61.8 The Minister also notes:

"UN-led negotiations to agree a Libyan political settlement are at a crucial point. UN SRSG Leon[ 451] issued his fourth/final draft of the agreement on 8 June. Only a stable and representative Government of National Accord (GNA) can deal with the political and security challenges that Libya faces, including control of its borders. However, if the process drags on, migration [and terrorist] threats will continue to worsen. The UK and international partners are working to urge both sides to come to an agreement. We, the EU and wider international community are prepared to support a GNA in confronting Libya's challenges."

61.9 We deal elsewhere with other EU responses to "the political and security challenges that Libya faces, including control of its borders", which in the CSDP context means the new EU naval operation, EUNAVFOR Med. In our separate Report on this mission and the Commission's proposals for dealing with the illegal immigrants who make it to Europe's shores, we are recommending that both be debated on the floor of the House. That will give the House an early opportunity to question the Government about the prospects for the sine qua non for progress in all of these areas, i.e., a Government of National Accord in Libya.

61.10 Looking further ahead, there are clear parallels here with the EU's other border assistance, EUBAM Rafah, whose latest mandate extension we consider elsewhere in this Report.[ 452] That mission has now been "in its current suspended state" since 2007, essentially because it has always been decided at each juncture that ending the mission "would send the wrong message about the extent of the EU's intentions". The obvious danger is that EUBAM Libya is now on that same road, with the outcome of the November review essentially pre-determined, i.e., in limbo until a GNA is formed. We therefore ask that the Minister informs the Committee as soon as it returns from the Conference recess, i.e., by 8 October, about the EEAS' and his latest thinking in relation to whatever the situation on the ground and future prospects for a GNA then are.

61.11 In the meantime, we now clear the draft Council Decision.

61.12 Though the Minister makes no mention of his having overridden scrutiny, in the circumstances — there being no Committee at that time — we do not take issue with his having done so.

Full details of the documents: Council Decision amending and extending Council Decision 2013/233/CFSP on the European Union Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya): (36822), —.

Background

61.13 Council Decision 2013/233/CFSP of May 2013 established this civilian CSDP Mission, the European Union Integrated Border Management Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya). The mission's mandate was for 24 months. It would consist of up to 165 people (at full operational capability). The aim is to support the Libyan authorities to develop capacity for enhancing the security of their borders in the short term and a broader Integrated Border Management (IBM) strategy in the longer term. The mission would: support Libyan authorities, through training and mentoring, in strengthening the border services in accordance with international standards and best practices; advise the Libyan authorities on the development of a Libyan national IBM strategy; and support the Libyan authorities in strengthening their institutional operational capabilities.

61.14 The budget for the first year of the mission was €30,300,000 (£21,525,000). A further Council Decision set out a budget of €26,200,000 (£18,608,000) covering the period 22 May 2014 to 21 May 2015, i.e., the second year of EUBAM Libya's two-year mandate.

61.15 When the previous Committee considered that draft Council Decision on 14 May 2014, it noted that the latest Commons Library Standard Note on Libya of 11 April 2014 said that, since the end of the 2011 civil war, Libya had been awash with militia and state sponsored armed groups who, having originally helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, were now reluctant to disarm and were intent on grabbing a share of power and the country's immense oil wealth; and who, in the face of a weak and disparate government, had taken the place of an effective army and police force, and also dispensed aid and humanitarian assistance to a beleaguered population.[ 453]

61.16 This wider background underlined the importance of an EEAS Strategic Review of the Mission, about which the Minister said he was unable to provide any information because, despite pressing it to do so, the EEAS had yet to release it.

61.17 The previous Committee concluded that, given that the mission was already to cost over €50 million, with little prospect of any sustainability, the question must arise as to whether the EU should cut its losses unless there was a dramatic change over the next 12 months.[ 454]

61.18 On 28 August 2014, the Minister reported that EUBAM Libya had decided on 4 August to withdraw staff from Libya due to the security situation: the core staff had temporarily relocated to Tunis and a small number were temporarily co-located with the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels. This, he said, was against a background in which fighting had escalated, particularly in Tripoli and Benghazi, which had closed the main international airport in Tripoli and led to the majority of the diplomatic community, including the UK, closing their Embassies and withdrawing staff. The political situation remained equally uncertain: after "relatively peaceful elections" on 25 June, a new House of Representatives had been sitting in Tobruk, due to the security situation in Tripoli: but not all members had taken up their seats, and some members of the expired General National Congress had convened sessions in Tripoli, declaring it as the sole legislative authority.

61.19 In its response, the previous Committee reminded the Minister of the outstanding request in its previous Report.

61.20 The Minister then wrote on 3 October 2014, to say that the Strategic Review had in fact come out at the end of May, and had recommended that the mission be extended for two years: however, discussions on this proposal had then been "overtaken by events in Libya". The deterioration of the political and security situation meant that, despite the holding of UN sponsored peace talks on 29 September, EUBAM Libya was unlikely to be able to return to Libya in the immediate future; he had therefore agreed to support an EEAS proposal to downsize it as soon as possible from a full Mission to a core team of 17-20 staff, working from Tunis, pending a second Strategic Review; this "should assess all possible options, including closure, for the future of the mission and is due to take place before the end of the year".

61.21 The Minister then reported in early December 2014 that he expected a review document "to be released" that month and "to be formally considered in January", with "a final decision on the future of the mission being taken in February". The Review would:

"set out conditions for the potential return of the mission as well as presenting the pros and cons of options for the future of the mission, including: maintaining the mission as it currently is; putting the mission into "sleeper mode" with the capacity to re-start operations quickly when the situation in Libya becomes more permissive; closing the mission; and re-location of the mission to either Tunisia or Egypt, with more of a containment focus working with their national authorities."

61.22 The Minister undertook to write with more details on the future of this mission "once this document has been discussed".

The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 19 June 2015

61.23 The Minister confirms that this Council Decision was adopted by the 21 May 2015 Foreign Affairs Council.

The Government's view

61.24 The Minister says that, unfortunately, publication of the EEAS Interim Strategic Review (ISR) was delayed to allow for discussions on Libya at the Foreign Affairs Council meetings in February and March; and presentation by the EEAS of a revised Political Framework for Crisis Approach (PFCA) on 10 April, which outlined options for EU support to a National Unity Government (NUG) in Libya:

"By the time the Interim Strategic Review (ISR) was finally released on 13 April, Parliament had dissolved for the election. I was therefore unable to inform the Scrutiny Committees of the findings, as intended."

61.25 Turning to the Strategic Review itself, the Minister says:

"Mission Activity: The ISR noted that key conditions for a successful mission had not been met: political transition and a stable security situation. Against this background, delivery of EUBAM's mandate had been extremely difficult and the mission has not achieved its objectives. Following relocation to Tunis, the mission operated at a reduced capacity, with the majority of staff initially working remotely from Europe. Mission activity focused on contingency planning by senior management. Regional planning and liaison visits to EUCAP Sahel Niger[ 455] and EUBAM Rafah enabled the mission to provide regional expertise and advice on border management. EUBAM Libya maintained limited contact with key Libyan border management officials, but this was hampered by uncertainties surrounding political allegiances. At an operational level, strengthening of border management capacity via the provision of advice, mentoring and training stopped due to the political and security conditions. A limited series of study visits was undertaken in Europe for customs and naval coastguard personnel, which concluded in January 2015. However, the mission is unable to achieve key objectives identified in the last strategic review to co-locate advisers in key ministries; and develop Libya's Maritime Search & Rescue and Customs organisations.

"Other Challenges: In addition to the issues I have noted, the ISR also mentions a number of other considerations that have arisen as a result of relocation to Tunis:

a.  "The Mission's legal status in Tunis is still unclear, with the Tunisian authorities indicating unofficially that they would prefer not to explore this issue;

b.  "Additional security concerns in light of the terrorist attack in Tunis on 18 March;

c.  "Remote presence makes it difficult for EUBAM to assess conditions and support UNSMIL;

d.  "Down-sizing has reduced expertise and corporate knowledge and could limit the mission's ability to reactivate quickly, should conditions be conducive.

61.26 "Options: The ISR highlighted a number of options for EUBAM:

a.  "Pre-Ceasefire:

·  "Closure;

·  "Maintaining the mission's current 'on hold' status for one year.

b.  "Post-Ceasefire:

·  "Resumption of activities via a phased approach and planning refresh."

61.27 The Minister then outlines Recent Decisions/Developments thus:

"At the FAC on 21 April, Member States considered the future of EUBAM in the context of wider discussions on Libya. Against the background of the options for EUBAM within the ISR, Member States were divided. Some pushed for closure, while others argued that this would send the wrong message about the extent of the EU's intentions at a time when the EU was looking to support a possible Government of National Unity. Member States finally agreed on a compromise option whereby the mission should continue with a short four to six month extension to the mandate — an approach to which the Foreign Secretary gave his support. Subsequently, on 21 April the PSC agreed on a six month extension, with the mission remaining in its current suspended state. In advance of the forthcoming expiry of the mandate on 21 November, Member States will reconsider the mission's future against the background of developments in the political and security situation; and the EU's wider strategy to address the migration issue in the Mediterranean. We judge that this short-term extension will allow the EU to progress thinking on appropriate action to support Libya and enable us to take a more considered view on the long-term future of EUBAM.

"UN-led negotiations to agree a Libyan political settlement are at a crucial point. UN SRSG Leon issued his fourth/final draft of the agreement on 8 June. Only a stable and representative Government of National Accord (GNA) can deal with the political and security challenges that Libya faces, including control of its borders. However, if the process drags on, migration [and terrorist] threats will continue to worsen. The UK and international partners are working to urge both sides to come to an agreement. We, the EU and wider international community are prepared to support a GNA in confronting Libya's challenges."

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (35995), —: Twenty-fifth Report HC 219-xxiv (2014-15), chapter 13 (10 December 2014), Fifteenth Report HC 219-xv (2014-15), chapter 10 (22 October 2014) and Fiftieth Report HC 83-xlv (2013-14), chapter 14 (14 May 2014); also see (34875), —: Third Report HC 83-iii (2013-14), chapter 25 (21May 2013) and First Report HC 83-i (2013-14), chapter 10 (8 May 2013).



449   The European Union Border Assistance Mission at the Rafah Crossing Point - code name EUBAM Rafah - was launched on 24 November 2005, to monitor the operations of the border crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, after Israel and the Palestinian Authority concluded an Agreement on Movement and Access on 15 November 2005. The Rafah Crossing Point was last opened with the presence of EUBAM monitors on 9 June 2007. Since then, the mission has remained on standby, awaiting a political solution. Back

450   See (35995), -: Twenty-fifth Report HC 219-xxiv (2014-15), chapter 13 (10 December 2014). Back

451   On 14 August 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Bernardino León (onetime EU Special Representative to the Southern Mediterranean) as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Back

452   See Council Decision amending Council Decision 2013/354/CFSP on the European Union Police Mission for the Palestinian Territories (EUPOL COPPS): (36913) -, and Council Decision amending Joint Action 2005/889/CFSP on establishing a European Union Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah Crossing Point (EU BAM Rafah): (36927) -, at chapter 67 of this Report. Back

453   See Commons Library Standard Note on Libya of 11 April 2014. Back

454   See Fiftieth Report HC 83-xlv (2013-14), chapter 14 (14 May 2014). For the full background to, and the Committee's consideration of, the establishment of this mission, see (34875),-: Third Report HC 83-iii (2013-14), chapter 25 (21May 2013) and First Report HC 83-i (2013-14), chapter 10 (8 May 2013). Back

455   The crisis in Mali, instability in Libya and Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria are all threatening Niger's security and development. In addition, the country is faced with the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons and people on its territory. Some of this organised crime serves to fund terrorist groups which are using Niger's vast desert regions as trafficking routes or safe havens. Established in August 2012, EUCAP Sahel Niger contributes to the development of an integrated, coherent, sustainable, and human rights-based approach among the various Nigerien security agencies in the fight against terrorism and organised crime. See EEAS factsheet on EUCAP Sahel Niger for full information. Back


 
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