New Greek Commander Leads EU’s Arms Embargo Operation to Libya


Greek Admiral, Kostantinos Bakalakos assumed command of the European military maritime operation in the Mediterranean, known as Operation IRINI

He succeeded Italian Admiral, Valentino Rinaldi on Sunday, according to the Italian news agency, ANSA.

During his speech at a ceremonial handover held in Naples, Admiral Rinaldi affirmed that “Operation IRINI continues to make its international contribution to global stability.” He underscored that “the past six months have been an intensely busy period. What we do every day is crucial for stability and peace in Libya.”

IRINI was launched by the European Union to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya, and support the country’s stabilization efforts. The mission conducts surveillance, monitoring, and inspection activities in the Mediterranean to prevent the flow of arms and military equipment to Libya.

In July 2023, IRINI closely scrutinised 491 merchant vessels through radio communications from a total of 11,059 and undertook 16 ship visits. These were all carried out with the consent of the ship Masters, from a total of 537. Interestingly, no new suspicious flights were monitored from a total of 1,153. However, the operation consistently kept a watch on 25 airports, including landing strips, along with 16 ports which also comprised oil terminals.

IRINI was instituted post the inaugural Berlin Conference. The Council of the European Union took a decisive step on 31 March 2020 by introducing this military operation, emphasizing the adherence to the UN-imposed arms embargo on Libya.

This operation is a cornerstone of Europe’s holistic strategy towards Libya. This strategy encompasses political, military, economic, and humanitarian channels, all aiming to usher stability and security back into the country.

The EU has been enforcing this embargo and recently introduced new provisions that, among other things, oblige member states to facilitate the disposal of arms seized on the high seas on behalf of IRINI.