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EU - Libya relations

26 January 2017
by eub2 -- last modified 26 January 2017

Following the popular uprising in Libya in 2011, the EU made significant efforts, including through the diplomatic track, to assist Libya's transition towards an inclusive and stable democracy and to support the UN mediation efforts in that process.


To this end, the EU provides assistance to Libya and the Libyan people through a set of measures, including support to the political transition and a negotiated settlement acceptable to all legitimate groups in the country, bilateral assistance, including humanitarian assistance and targeted assistance in the field of migration, as well as support through its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations especially EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia.

Support for political transition and negotiated settlement

The EU has been supporting efforts to implement the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) agreed in 2015, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA*) that was formed under the terms of the Agreement and local authorities through institution building, including the deployment of Stabilisation Facility funding to restore public infrastructure and improve inter-governmental coordination. 

In this context, the EU works closely with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya under the leadership of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General to facilitate the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement and support mediation efforts to ensure all stakeholders in Libya come together in a spirit of compromise and reconciliation to make the Agreement work and prevent conflict, in the interest of all Libyans.

The EU also supports the mediation activities of neighbours and regional partners as well as the Arab League and the African Union. 

Bilateral assistance

The EU has been providing significant support to the Libyans since the beginning of the crisis, with a package of over €100 million bilateral assistance allocated.

The EU support is provided mainly through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and the Instrument Contributing to Stability (IcSP).

The EU assistance package to Libya foresees the implementation of 37 projects across six sectors, corresponding to the priorities of our bilateral cooperation: Civil society; Democratic governance; Health; Youth, active citizenship and socio-economic integration; Migration and protection; and Political process, security and mediation. Many of these projects, which were suspended due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in 2014, have been gradually resumed with the arrival of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in December 2015.

For the period 2014-2016, €26 million have been mobilised, part of the €100 million bilateral assistance package.

The EU has further allocated a total of €10.8 million in humanitarian aid in 2016. Assistance is provided to internally displaced persons, returnees and other vulnerable groups in conflict-affected areas. 

Cooperation in the field of migration and protection continues 

The European Union's engagement encompasses support to rights-based migration management in Libya, capacity-building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard, as well as the promotion of dialogue between Libya and its southern neighbours on the management of their common borders. The EU is further active in supporting the Libyan authorities (GNA) in providing essential services to the Libyan population, displaced persons, migrants and refugees. 

Out of the EU total support to Libya, over €20 million go to ongoing programmes related to migration that facilitate the voluntary return of stranded migrants, support host communities by providing employment opportunities for both local population and migrants, provide assistance and protection to vulnerable migrants, and aim at improving the living conditions in retention centres and disembarkation points. 

Thematic assistance programmes – for example, on human rights or migration – are funded also by additional sources. Furthermore, Libya benefits from funding under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) to increase protection of migrants and to strengthen effective migration management.

A programme funded under the EUTF for Africa worth €5.9 million, which has begun in 2017, will be implemented by a consortium led by the Danish Refugee Council, with the objective of improving the protection and the resilience of refugees, migrants (including in detention centres), IDPs and host communities, as well as to pilot an ‘alternative to detention’ initiative.

The EU is also currently preparing a new programme under the EUTF for Africa, worth over €20 million to better protect and assist the most vulnerable migrants, and to help their host communities in Libya. It will in particular aim at:

  1. assisting the most vulnerable migrants rescued at sea in Libyan territorial waters and disembarked in Libya;
  2. improving protection, supporting the respect of fundamental rights and addressing the most urgent needs of migrants in detention centres;
  3. scaling up humanitarian repatriation and reintegration in their home countries of vulnerable migrants stranded in Libya, with a first target of assisting 5000 people.

The programmes will be implemented by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). 

The EU also supports the UNHCR in its capacity-building for Libyan authorities and in its assistance to refugees and asylum seekers present in or disembarked in Libya through its regional development and protection programme. 

CSDP Missions and Operations

The EU is engaged in providing focussed support to Libya through its CSDP missions and operations EUBAM Libya and EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia.

EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia

EUNAVFOR Med Operation Sophia was launched in June 2015 as part of the EU's broader action to provide a comprehensive response to the global migration and refugee crisis and to encourage a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya. It seeks to counter human trafficking and smuggling on the high seas, by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting the smugglers business model. The operation has rescued more than 32.000 lives in the course of its operations on the high seas off the coast of Libya. 

Last June, the EU reinforced the Operation with two supporting tasks, capacity delivery to the Libyan coastguard and navy, and information exchange and contribution to the implementation of the UN arms embargo in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2292. The objective of the training, launched following a request by the Libyan authorities (GNA), is to enhance the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy's capability to disrupt smuggling and trafficking in the country and perform search and rescue activities, to improve the overall security in Libyan territorial waters. 


EUBAM Libya was initially launched in May 2013 as an integrated border management mission in Libya. The mission was downsized in 2014 due to the deteriorating security situation and relocated to Tunis. The mission intends to establish a light presence in Tripoli, as soon as conditions would allow for it. 

In February 2016, its mandate was amended to provide for a civilian planning capacity, focussed on police, criminal justice, border security and migration. 

The objective of this planning mission is to further analyse the police and criminal justice system and civilian security sector in Libya, including on border security and migration, in order to prepare for a possible future CSDP mission if requested by the Libyan authorities (GNA) and subsequently endorsed by the Council. The mission retains a limited capacity to provide advice and mentoring to Libyan interlocutors on related civilian security issues.

Source: European External Action Service (EEAS)