Libya: An EU ‘civilian’ mission to train paramilitaries?

18 November 2013 – Presseurop EUobserver.com

In the wake of a weekend of violence in Tripoli, EUobserver reports on “an internal EU paper – a blueprint for the border mission, Eubam Libya” — which details plans to “build up the ‘operational level’ of Libya's ‘Border Guards (BG)’ and ‘Naval Coast Guard (NCG).’”

The news website explains that Eubam will take battalions from the 9,000-strong BG and the 6,500-strong NCG, which are “under the ‘direct command’ of the Libyan army's ‘chief of staff,” out of the field, and train them in secure locations, before redeploying them into action.

For EUObserver the “civilian mission” is effectively providing training for “paramilitaries” in Libya. However, it also quotes a spokesman for the EU foreign service, Michael Mann, who insists that the EU is not “doing anything out of the ordinary —

… The mission is supporting all border management related agencies and is providing advice and support on border management related issues, not on military tasks.

Eubam will join a host of programmes managed by the EU, the United States, Turkey and the UAE which aim to foster stability in Libya. For EUObserver this laudable objective is not the only interest at stake. The North African state is currently producing “just 700,000 barrels [of oil] a day, but could quickly get back to pre-war levels of 1.4 million barrels if things go well.” It also has “a lot of money to spend on hardware” — a fact that will be of interest to the former colonial power in the country, Italy, which “was delivering €100 million a year of weapons to Libya before the war broke out.” Then there is the question of the control of migrations flows towards the EU.

According to the official document seen by the news website, the EU needs to build a positive image in Libya where people are “still very grateful” for European help in toppling Gaddafi, but where only 50 per cent actually know “what the EU is.” But positive PR remains a minor aspect of assistance to Libya, which is currently in the throes of a delicate transition. As a Maltese diplomat explained to EUObserver —

"The EU cannot allow Libya to become a failed state."

Factual or translation error? Tell us.