Sumario: 23 May 2011, Brussels - On 22 May EU High Representative Catherine Ashton officially opened a European Union office in the rebel capital of Benghazi. This office will facilitate the channelling of resources and improve contacts with those fighting for democracy. During her visit, the High Representative met opposition leaders, civil society representatives and the EU's international partners. At the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 May, she briefed ministers on her trip, and the Council adopted stronger restrictive measures against the Libyan regime, broadening the list of persons and entities subject to travel restrictions and to an assets freeze.
Foreign affairs ministers meeting on 12 April called for an immediate ceasefire and respect for human rights in Libya. Those working within the regime face a choice: to continue to associate themselves with the brutal repression of Colonel Gaddafi or to work for an orderly transition to democracy.
The humanitarian situation in the country and on its borders gives cause for deep concern. There is a serious risk that conditions will deteriorate further due to displacements and migrations, if the conflict continues. Preparations for EUFOR Libya, a military operation designed to support humanitarian assistance in the region, are well under way, and the operation will be launched if requested by the United Nations.
Faced with rising numbers of refugees arriving on its southern shores, the EU is ready to show concrete solidarity with the member states that are most directly affected.
The Council adopted further sanctions against the regime and will continue to deprive Gaddafi's regime completely of all funding derived from oil and gas exports.
Ministers met Mr Mahmud Jibril from the opposition Transitional National Council for an informal exchange of views.
Operation EUFOR Libya
The EU is ready to mount a military operation to provide humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis in Libya. Under a formal decision adopted on 1 April 2011, the Council created the legal framework for Operation EUFOR Libya, which would be launched at the request of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in order to "contribute to the safe movement and evacuation of displaced persons and support humanitarian agencies in their activities in the region".
EUFOR Libya, an EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation, would support the mandates of UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973. It has an Italian commander, Rear-Admiral Claudio Gaudiosi, and its operational headquarters are in Rome, Italy. It has a budget of EUR 7.9 million and would operate for an initial period of four months.
London Conference on Libya - International contact group
The EU is committed to working with the international community for a democratic transition in Libya. It is a member of the international contact group established at the London Conference on Libya on 29 March, along with key partners including the UN, the African Union, the Arab League, and EU member states.
European Council of 24-25 March
The spring European summit restated the EU's position, set by the extraordinary European Council on Libya and the Southern Neighbourhood of 11 March: Colonel Gaddafi must relinquish power immediately, and Libya must embark on a political transition, led by the Libyans themselves. The EU stands ready to assist a new Libya economically, and in the building of its new institutions, in cooperation with the Arab League, the African Union and the UN.
The European Council of 24-25 March stated the EU's readiness to impose further sanctions on Libya, following those already adopted to implement the measures under Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973. Additional EU sanctions would, the European Council said, ensure that oil and gas revenues do not reach the Gaddafi regime. Member states will also make similar proposals to the UN Security Council.
On 23 March, the Hungarian Minister for Foreign Affairs, János Martonyi, and Commissioner Cecilia Malmström had discussions in Cairo with the Egyptian government and representatives of the Libyan National Council.
On 22 March, Mr Martonyi visited the Egyptian-Libyan border at Salloum and received first-hand reports of the situation from local authorities and NGOs.
On 21 March, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted conclusions on Libya and a decision to impose additional sanctions, implementing and going beyond UN Security Council Resolution 1975. It extended the travel ban and assets freeze previously imposed in order to target 11 more people and nine more entities. The individuals are deemed to be involved in or complicit in serious human rights abuses that violate international law, including those resulting from aerial bombardments or other attacks on civilian populations and facilities. The assets freeze was extended to the new entities listed by the UN under UN Security Council resolution 1073, and also to five other entities, designated autonomously by the EU.
The new decision also prevents all flights in the air-space of Libya and strengthens the enforcement of the arms embargo. It also bans Libyan aircraft from EU member states' airspace as well as any aircraft it has reason to believe are carrying prohibited items, including armed mercenary personnel.
At the Paris Summit for the Support to the Libyan People held in the French capital on 19 March, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, stated the European Union's readiness to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1973 within its mandate and competences.
On 17 March, President Van Rompuy and High Representative Catherine Ashton issued a joint statement welcoming resolution 1973 adopted by the UN Security Council.
The High Representative visited Egypt on 14 March to brief the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, on the Foreign Affairs Council of 10 March and the European Council of 11 March.
On 11 March, EU leaders meeting in Brussels declared that Muammar Gaddafi must step down. They said his regime had lost all legitimacy and the EU considered the interim Transitional National Council in Benghazi as a political interlocutor.
On the same occasion, the High Representative and the Commission presented a proposal for a Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean. Such a partnership should be founded on deeper economic integration, broader market access and political cooperation.
On 10 March, the EU imposed further sanctions on Libya, including measures targeting key Libyan financial institutions. An arms embargo had been imposed
On 28 February in line with UN Security Council resolution 1970, along with a ban on trade with Libya in any equipment which might be used for internal repression.
On 28 February the EU also imposed a visa ban and an assets freeze on Muammar Gaddafi and other persons responsible for the violent clampdown on civilians. The sanctions adopted by the EU both implement the measures called for by the UN and go further. The Council decision on these sanctions was taken with unprecedented speed.
Negotiations on an EU-Libya framework agreement and ongoing cooperation contracts with the country were suspended on 22 February.
In the central Mediterranean area, Italy and the EU border-control agency Frontex are conducting a joint operation called Hermes 2011. Launched on 20 February following a formal request from the Italian government, the aim of the operation is to help Italy cope with actual and potential migratory flows from Northern Africa. A total of 14 member states (including Italy) have committed resources, in the form of either personnel or technical equipment, for deployment in the operation; eight of the fourteen member states are currently active.
Since the beginning of the uprisings in Northern Africa, more than 20 000 refugees have arrived on the island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily. Most of them are Tunisian migrants, but lately Libyans have also sought shelter on Lampedusa. The majority of migrants are transferred to reception centres in Italy.
ECHO (EU humanitarian aid and civil protection) teams are present at the Tunisian-Libyan and Egyptian-Libyan borders in order to assess humanitarian needs and the overall situation. EUR 70 million have been made available for humanitarian assistance to the most affected people in Libya and neighbouring countries (Tunisia and Egypt). The Commission is ready to increase if needs on the ground so require. On 17 May, the contribution from the European Commission plus the member states totalled nearly EUR 125 million.
A six-member civil-protection coordination and assessment team has been dispatched to the Tunisian-Libyan border and is in contact with the ECHO Office and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
The EU delegation in Tunis is actively coordinating with international organisations present in Tunis (World Food Programme, African Development Bank, UNHCR etc.).