The European Union unveiled plans to expand its naval mission, Operation IRINI, beyond the borders of Libya, spotlighting a renewed focus on countering human trafficking and smuggling in the Mediterranean.
The potential extension of Operation IRINI to Tunisia was revealed by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. However, he made it clear that “any such expansion would necessitate Tunisia’s consent.” This comes amidst reports of strained relations between the EU and Tunisia, largely precipitated by Tunisia’s President declining EU funds, and potential complications arising from the entry of European warships into Tunisian territorial waters.
The proposed extension is not without its challenges. Balancing national sovereignty with international peacekeeping efforts is a delicate task, requiring careful negotiation and mutual respect. The EU’s approach towards procuring consent from Tunisia in this venture will be a testament to its commitment to fostering harmonious international relations.
The EU’s focus on curbing migration by involving countries of origin and transit is evident through upcoming visits by top commissioners to Gambia, and Mauritania. Through engaging in dialogue with these nations, the EU hopes to address the root causes of migration, thereby reducing the number of individuals undertaking perilous journeys in search of better futures.
This approach marks a shift from reactive measures to proactive ones, targeting the issue at its core. The success of this strategy could provide a blueprint for other regions grappling with similar migrant crises.
IRINI has been an integral part of the EU’s broader strategy to address migration, which includes expanding naval missions in the Mediterranean, and fortifying borders in the Sahel region.
The mission, named after the Greek word for ‘peace’, was initiated in 2020, with an aim to ensure compliance with the UN arms embargo on Libya, a vital step towards achieving lasting peace and stability in the country. The operation also seeks to deter human trafficking, and fuel smuggling across the Mediterranean.