libya migrants .jpg
Photograph: EPA/STR

EU foreign ministers are due Monday to discuss a Libyan request for the bloc to help train its coastguard, as part of plans to extend a European naval mission aimed at curbing migration flows from the conflict-ridden northern African country.

Libya has been a springboard for migrants trying to reach the European Union, with smuggling networks taking advantage of the political turmoil that gripped the country after longtime dictator Moamer Gaddafi was toppled in 2011.

Brussels set up a naval operation last year, codenamed Operation Sofia, to patrol international waters off the Libyan coast, intercept migrant vessels and arrest suspected smugglers, with a view to dismantling their business model.

But the operation has been criticized by some for being too restricted in its scope. While it has rescued almost 14,000 migrants at sea, it has no authority to enter Libyan territorial waters, where many of the smugglers operate.

The EU has been waiting for the formation of a unity government in Libya - a step that occurred last month - in the hope that it would then ask the bloc to expand Operation Sofia.

The request from Libyan Prime Minister Fajez Sarraj for coastguard training arrived Sunday, a day before EU foreign ministers were due to discuss a possible expansion of the operation.

"It's an invitation that we will welcome," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said ahead of Monday's talks. "It will be very important to control the Libyan territorial waters, to do it together with our Libyan partners, and therefore also control the migratory flows," she added.

The aim is to support the new Libyan government "on its path to stability and new statehood," said German State Minister Michael Roth. There are some questions around the legitimacy of Sarraj's government to request the EU's naval assistance.

A functioning government is also seen as key to fighting the Islamic State extremist movement, which has used the political vacuum to gain a foothold in Libya.

Once the ministers have agreed in principle to the Libyan request, a legal decision to expand Operation Sofia could follow quickly, a senior EU official said Friday on condition of anonymity, noting that one ship could suffice to provide the training.

France, meanwhile, would also like the mission to help enforce an arms embargo against Libya. Paris believes that Islamic State militants in Libya are being supplied via the Mediterranean Sea.

The ministers are also due Monday to discuss the EU's overall response to migration challenges, in cooperation with countries of origin and transit, as well as the bloc's strategy to tackle the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Latest news

SpaceX plans to fly two passengers around moon

SpaceX is planning to fly two private citizens around the moon next year, the first manned trip to the Earth's satellite in more than four decades, the private company said Monday.

Key congressman has 'no evidence' of Trump contacts with Russia

The chairman of the US House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee said he is not aware of any evidence of improper contacts between Russian officials and Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Gambia's new President Barrow fires army chief

Gambia's new President Adama Barrow has sacked army chief Ousman Badjie, replacing him with a presidential military aide.

Star investor Buffett takes a bigger bite of Apple, doubling shares

Stock market guru Warren Buffett on Monday revealed that his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway doubled its share of iPhone producer Apple stocks last month.

Minister: Erdogan not welcome in Austria for referendum campaign

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan should not come to Austria to campaign to Turkish citizens living there ahead of a constitutional reform referendum in his country, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said Monday.

Migrant group: Britain hits 'new low' by deporting grandmother

Britain has hit a "new low" by deporting a grandmother from north-eastern England to Singapore, a migrants' rights group said on Monday.

Turkish judge remands German reporter in custody

A Turkish judge remanded German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel in custody Monday, according to newspaper Die Welt, sparking strong condemnation from the German government.

1.4 million people without water after deadly floods in Chile

More than 1.4 million people were without drinking water in the Chilean capital of Santiago on Monday following catastrophic flooding that left at least three people dead.

Serbia PM says no snap parliamentary election

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday that an early parliamentary election would not be held simultaneously with a presidential vote, although the state leadership had announced such a possibility.  

Trump touts 'security budget' with 10-per-cent defence spending hike

US President Donald Trump says he will present a "public security and national security budget" that hikes military spending by 54 billion dollars or about 10 per cent.

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen fined for Roma comments

The founder of France's far-right National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had a 5,000-euro (5,300-dollar) fine for inciting racial hatred and discrimination confirmed on appeal on Monday.

Croatia-Montenegro relations example for region, says minister

After meeting Croatian Ambassador Veselko Grubisic in Podgorica on Monday, Montenegrin Defence Minister Predrag Boskovic said that relations between Croatia and Montenegro were very good and could serve as an example to other countries in the region.

Over 31,000 South Sudanese flee fighting and hunger to Sudan

Fleeing escalating fighting and famine in South Sudan, over 31,000 people have arrived in neighbouring Sudan so far this year, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said Monday.

SDP urges gov't to pull statement making radical turn in human rights

The opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Monday called on the government to take a position on the Croatian foreign policy's turn in human rights, which it said was initiated by Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier, and to withdraw a Foreign Ministry statement on that sent to Brussels.

Police says photoshopped photo of Milanka Opacic motivated by hate

An investigation has proved that a photograph showing Parliament Deputy Speaker Milanka Opacic wearing a shirt with four Cyrillic letters "S" (standing for "only unity saves the Serb", a popular motto and slogan in Serbia and among Serb nationalists) is a photomontage and the police suspect that publishing and distributing the said photo has been motivated by hate and intolerance.

Finance Ministry says didn't analyse HEP's readiness for IPO

The Ministry of Finance on Monday announced that it had not analysed the justification or the readiness of power provider Hrvatska Elektroprivreda (HEP) for an initial public offering with regard to a possible acquisition of Hungarian energy company MOL's stake in Croatia's INA.

Berlin confirms murder of German hostage in the Philippines

Berlin confirmed on Monday the murder of a German hostage by the militant Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines with Chancellor Angela Merkel condemning the killing as "barbaric" and "abominable".

Syrian refugees arrive in Italy with help from Christian groups

A group of 50 Syrian refugees, more than half of them children, landed in Italy early Monday, entering the country on humanitarian visas obtained with the help of a lay Catholic NGO, Protestant organizations and the Italian government.