josip buljević.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Slavko VUKADIN/ ua

Croatia is will to contribute with other European Union member states to the establishment of a Libyan coast guard to fight against refugee smugglers, Croatian Defence Minister Josip Buljevic said in Luxembourg on Tuesday.

He attended a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council which discussed the situation in Libya and how to oppose hybrid threats. The EU has offered Libya EUR 100 million in economic and humanitarian aid. 

Last night, EU foreign and defence ministers held a meeting and a video conference with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who formed a government of national unity but has still not received support in parliament.

The EU hopes the government will prevent Islamic State from creating a new stronghold in Libya as well as refugees from boarding boats on Libyan coasts, from which smugglers take them to Sicily. The EU is considering the possibility of expanding its maritime Operation Sophia, launched last summer to fight refugee smugglers.

"The meeting considered ways of enhancing Operation Sophia, to which European states, including Croatia, will contribute, probably by training Libyan forces, a possible Libyan coast guard," said Buljevic. "It was concluded that the EU will additionally support the Libyan government of national unity. We also talked about activating EUR 100 million in aid to make the situation in the field easier, and also considered unfreezing Libyan funds because Libya is not a poor country and has enough funds and capacities to ensure normal functioning."

The EU defence ministers also adopted conclusions on opposing hybrid threats aimed at destabilising the region or a country.

On the fringes of the meeting, Buljevic held talks with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini on the creation of the EU's Libyan policy, notably regarding security and defence mechanisms.

They also talked about Croatia's southeast neighbours and the rising radicalisation, with Mogherini expressing interest in cooperation, the Defence Ministry said in a press release, adding that they agreed to exchange opinions and cooperate in projects of interest for the security of the EU.

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