As fighting goes on in Libya, the European Union has imposed sanctions against the Libyan leadership and will extend them this week. In a spirit of solidarity, the member states are coordinating repatriation of their nationals and are running a joint border-control operation in Italy. Humanitarian aid is being sent to the region. On 11 March, EU leaders will meet to discuss the Union's response to events in Libya and in the wider region.
Libya at the top of the agenda
The EU strongly condemns the violence and use of force against civilians and deplores the repressive measures taken against peaceful demonstrators, which have resulted in the deaths of large numbers of civilians. Chaired by the Hungarian Presidency of the Council, The EU Interior, Energy and Defence ministers have already met to assess the situation.
The President of the European Council has convened an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on 11 March to discuss the strategic lines of the Union's reaction to developments in Libya and in Northern Africa.
The discussion will build on a policy paper proposing a new partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the southern Mediterranean presented by the European External Action Service and the Commission on 8 March.
The EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels today, 10 March, to exchange views ahead of the European Council meeting.
The High Representative Catherine Ashton has established a task force bringing together European External Action Service and Commission experts to adapt the EU's existing instruments for helping the countries of Northern Africa. The aim is to provide a comprehensive package of measures tailored to the specific needs of each country. A technical fact-finding mission has visited Libya to assess the situation on the ground.
Arms embargo and other sanctions
The EU is due to impose further sanctions on Libya, including key Libyan financial institutions, on 10 March.
An arms embargo was already imposed on 28 February in line with the UN Security Council resolution and prohibited trade with Libya in any equipment which might be used for internal repression. The decision in the Council was taken with unprecedented speed.
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.
Negotiations on an EU-Libya framework agreement and ongoing cooperation contracts with the country have been suspended as of 22 February.
Speeding up the repatriation of EU nationals
The EU has pooled its resources to evacuate its citizens from Libya. Diplomatic missions of EU member states in Tripoli have worked day and night on the repatriation of nationals in coordination with the Hungarian embassy representing the Union on the ground. Since 23 February, as part of the Civil Protection Mechanism, the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) has been helping to identify and make available assets for evacuation, including by sea.
Ongoing evacuations have been focusing on Tripoli, Benghazi and the Jalu / Nafura region. The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) is preparing contingency plans for evacuation of EU nationals by sea from the wider Tripoli region in the event that evacuation by air becomes impossible.
The EU Military Staff's planning and movement cell is liaising with member states and the MIC to facilitate the coordination of military assets for evacuation or humanitarian purposes. The EU Situation Centre is monitoring the situation and assisting member states in their efforts. The EU's consular on-line system is contributing to the exchange of information between member states. The EU's Satellite Centre is providing imagery to support evacuation efforts.
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 to cope with actual and potential migratory flows from Northern Africa. A large number of EU member states have provided technical assets (such as naval and aerial equipment) and specialised personnel.
In addition, Frontex and Europol have started risk analysis for the region to make it possible to respond better to developments on the ground.
The humanitarian situation in Libya is still largely unknown, as access is very limited and the presence of humanitarian organisations remains sparse. Experts from the European Commission have been deployed in the eastern part of Libya where they are working on a first assessment of humanitarian needs.
Hungarian Minister of State Enikő Győri and Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, visited Tunisia’s border with Libya on 2 and 3 March to gather first-hand information.
The Commission has allocated 30 million euros to address humanitarian needs in Libya and neighbouring countries. Initially, medical and food aid, shelter and other necessities are being provided to refugees crossing into Tunisia and Egypt. As soon as the security situation in Libya allows, aid will also be provided inside the country.
Two weeks ago, two teams of ECHO (EU humanitarian aid and civil protection) experts were deployed on the borders of Libya with Tunisia and Egypt to analyse the humanitarian crisis.
Following the joint appeal by António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Organisation for Migration for a massive humanitarian evacuation programme for tens of thousands of Egyptians and other third country nationals on the Tunisian and Egyptian borders, the European Commission has already pledged a large portion of its funding to these two organisations.