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EU-Libya relations


The European Union (EU) has a strong interest in a stable, secure, united and prosperous Libya. Through diplomatic action and bilateral support, the EU seeks to assist the country and the Libyan people to return to peace and resume the transition to democracy. The EU fully supports the United Nations (UN)-led mediation efforts in the Libyan crisis.

The EU is one of the largest provider of assistance in Libya. EU projects aim at strengthening civil society, human rights and free media, democratic governance, health services and COVID-19 response, entrepreneurship, youth empowerment,  and gender equality.

An important part of EU support to Libya goes to the protection and assistance of migrants, refugees and vulnerable groups, support to Libyan communities that host a particularly high number of migrants and actions for border management.

Those include support, for example through technical trainings or equipment, to improve the capacities of Libyan authorities to provide life-saving activities at sea in accordance with International law. The EU is also working with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to facilitate voluntary returns and humanitarian evacuations from Libya.

The EU also has dedicated CSDP actions and missions to assist Libya return to peace and stability.

The EU’s Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI has been set up in March 2020 to contribute to the implementation of the UN arms embargo. The Operation is also mandated to support the implementation of UN measures against the illicit export of crude oil and other petroleum products from Libya, capacity building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, as well as the disruption of human smuggling and trafficking networks at sea.

Operation IRINI has demonstrated its impartiality and its effectiveness acting in an impartial manner on the basis of corroborated facts. It has conducted 21 inspections – regardless of the provenance of the vessels -, more than 230 friendly approaches and 5,700 hailings. It has also shared more than 30 special reports – covering all parties in a balanced way – with the UN Panel of Experts.

The European Union Integrated Border Assistance Mission in Libya (EUBAM Libya) supports the Libyan authorities in their efforts to disrupt organised criminal networks involved in smuggling of migrants, human trafficking and terrorism. EUBAM works with the Libyan authorities on border management, law enforcement and criminal justice, and facilitates donor coordination in these areas.

The EU also established the EU Liaison and Planning Cell (EULPC) to provide key security, intelligence and planning expertise to the EU and to the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).


Political support

The EU cooperates closely with the UN and is actively engaged in the UN-led Berlin Process for Libya aiming to restore peace and stability across the country.

Following the Berlin Conferences on Libya in January 2020 and June 2021 and the Paris Conference in November 2021, the EU adopted sanctions against spoilers of the political process, violators of human rights and international humanitarian law, people traffickers.

The EU is pursuing active diplomatic engagement and outreach to encourage the Libyans and their outside backers to implement the October 2020 Ceasefire Agreement and is in constant dialogue with UN and Libyan counterparts on how to best support this process.

Since 2018, the EU has provided EUR 9.3 million to support the political and reconciliation process in Libya. EU funding specifically supports dialogue initiatives put in place by Libyan and international civil society organisations in support of national reconciliation and UN-led peace mediation efforts. Participants include all components of Libyan society, including in particular youth and women, who gather with the aim to resolve conflicts and build wide consensus on key issues for the future of Libya. The EU stands ready to continue its engagement in this area with an additional EUR 5 million.

The EU works with both the High National Elections Commission and the Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections (CCMCE) with the aim to help build institutional capacity to prepare and deliver credible elections.

As co-chair of the Economic Working Group of the Berlin Process, the EU is supporting the Libyans in developing a more sustainable and transparent way to manage oil revenues and to prioritise economic reforms urgently needed to address the dire economic situation in Libya.


EU assistance

Overall, EU assistance for Libya reached about EUR 700 million during 2014-2020. It came from different external financing instruments, mainly bilateral assistance under the European Neighbourhood Instrument, funds from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, from the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) and humanitarian assistance. It also includes funding from the Development Cooperation Instrument, notably its thematic budget lines for Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities, as well as the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights for projects focusing on human rights and gender. Libya also benefits from Erasmus+ programmes focusing on mobility of staff and students, capacity building for higher education and Erasmus Mundus scholarships.

Between 2014 and 2020, the EU has allocated about EUR 98 million of bilateral assistance to Libya under the European Neighbourhood Instrument and EUR 82 million under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP). Ongoing projects under the same instrument amount to EUR 46.75 million in support of crises response in Libya.

EU bilateral assistance focuses on the following sectors:

Governance: the EU supports the reinforcement of public administration capacities at central and local levels. EU assistance promotes good governance, protection of human rights and the reinforcement of the rule of law.

Economic development: the EU is seeking to support the improvement of the business environment, the capacities of business support services and Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs), and access to finance for SMEs.

Elections: The EU has been supporting the elections process through the years. It allocated EUR 11.7 million to the election commission (HNEC) via the PEPOL project managed by UNDP. More recently, EUR 1.5 million was spent on actions against disinformation and EUR 100 000 on election security. The EU also supports the holding of local elections by the Libyan Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections (CCMCE).

Health: the EU contributes to improving the access to quality health services in Libya. It helps strengthen the capacities of relevant authorities and staff.

Civil society and youth: the EU contributes to reinforcing the capacities of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and promote gender equality. It also supports the Libyan youth through programmes that help them develop the skills required by the labour market.

Mediation and stability: the EU contributes to improved public services, conflict mediation and conflict resolution efforts, including through the direct provision of assistance to the national political process.

Demining: the EU is providing technical expertise and equipment to the Libyan authorities to help clear the estimated 150000 to 200000 tonnes of uncontrolled munitions, improvised explosive devices and other remnants of war that pose a deadly risk to the local population.

Hate speech/disinformation: the EU is closely monitoring the growing impact of online and offline disinformation campaigns on the security situation in Libya. Awareness raising campaigns through local influencers and opinion makers aim at combatting hate speech and fake news. The EU offers training for journalists and media professionals to counter disinformation and build effective fact checking platforms.


EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

The EU has allocated around EUR 455 million under the North of Africa window of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), making Libya its biggest beneficiary. Over half of the funding goes to the protection of migrants, refugees and vulnerable people, one-third to community stabilisation in Libyan municipalities, and the rest to actions for border management, which have the objective to save the lives of those making dangerous journeys by sea or land.    

In November 2017, the EU together with the African Union (AU) and the UN set up a Trilateral Task Force on migration to accelerate both the assisted voluntary returns of migrants by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and humanitarian evacuations of refugees by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The EUTF has contributed substantially to humanitarian evacuations of more than 7 500 refugees from Libya and more than 56 500 voluntary humanitarian returns of migrants to their countries of origin. IOM and UNHCR are also carrying out protection and assistance in detention centres, at disembarkation points and in urban locations. Over the years, more than 400 000 Non Food items and hygiene kits to migrants and refugees have been delivered thanks to the EUTF.

The EU aims to improve the living conditions of migrants and host communities along the migratory routes and funds dedicated programmes for the stabilisation of municipalities. Over 4.7 million people have meanwhile improved access to basic services following the rehabilitation of social infrastructures (hospitals, schools, water and electricity).

The EU allocated around EUR 59 million under the EUTF to support Libyan border management authorities, Search and Rescue (SAR) activities at sea and at land, as well as law enforcement. It covers the refurbishment of facilities such as of the maritime rescue coordination centre, the national coordination centre, SAR vessels, maintenance activities, vehicles, communication equipment and hygiene kits, as well as capacity building, embedded in a human rights based approach.


Humanitarian aid

Since 2011, the EU has provided EUR 84.3 million in humanitarian assistance to support the most vulnerable affected by the consequences of the Libyan conflict.

This humanitarian funding is solely provided through UN agencies, international organisations or NGOs. EU support has helped address health, protection, education and other basic needs, including support for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign as well as the UN Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS). In 2022, the EU will continue to address existing needs. This will include for example child protection and education for children who are out of school or at risk of dropping out.


Response to COVID-19

EU programmes worth over EUR 66 million, mostly from EUTF Africa funds, but also from bilateral and humanitarian funding, contribute to the COVID-19 response in Libya.

In 2021, Humanitarian actions have been adjusted to assist the Libyan COVID-19 response through awareness raising, hygiene promotion and supporting health facilities with personal protection equipment.

Through its UN partners and in the framework of its support to vaccination rollout in Africa, the EU is helping to improve safe access for the most vulnerable populations to the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the East, West and South of the country. It also helps mitigating collateral damage from inequitable and/or poorly delivered vaccines and ensuring safe medical waste management to reduce the environmental footprint of the vaccination campaign.

Bilateral programmes contribute to the COVID-19 response by reinforcing the health system, fighting disinformation, and supporting the post-crisis economic recovery.

Through the EUTF Africa, the EU supported the fragile public health system already before the pandemic outbreak. Since then, EUTF Africa actions were refocused to contribute to the COVID-19 response through a variety of interventions such as fumigation and sterilisation campaigns, distribution of essential personal protective equipment, training to medical staff, as well as awareness campaigns to prevent the spread of the virus among vulnerable groups.

A EUR 23.1 million COVID-19 specific programme is ongoing with WHO, IOM, UNICEF, WFP and IMC as partners to assist the authorities better coordinate the virus response across the country. The action also provides for the most urgent needs of health care providers, including through civil society involvement. This project is expected to directly benefit more than 1 million people and indirectly around 4.5 million people in Libya.

See also