Category Archives: Maghreb

MEPs discuss slave trade in Libya

The mistreatment of migrants and refugees in Libya, and arrangements for their resettlement or return, are debated with UNHCR in the European Parliament on Monday, 5/03/2018.

The ways to end the mistreatment of migrants and refugees stranded in Libya, the point of departure of up to 90% of people crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, will be discussed by Civil Liberties Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs, members of the Delegation for relations with Maghreb countries and UNHCR, Commission and External Action Service representatives.

Following several media reports that migrants have fallen victim to the slave trade in Libya, the EU and the African Union, together with the UN, agreed in November 2017 to set up a joint Task Force to save and protect lives along the African migration routes and in particular inside Libya, accelerating assisted voluntary returns to countries of origin, and the resettlement of those in need of international protection.

Fighting smuggling and easing returns to countries of origin are EU priorities.

Libya’s Sharara oil field interrupted extraction

Libya’s Sharara oil field stopped extracting crude oil several days after output plunged at another of the OPEC member’s biggest deposits.

 The halt resulted from the closing of a pipeline from Sharara to the Zawiya refinery, according to experts opinion. Sharara stopped production on Sunday (4/03/2018), according to Maghrebin sources. Libya had been pumping 1.1 million barrels a day as of March 1, with Sharara contributing 300,000 of that. The field is run by a joint venture between the National Oil Corp. and Repsol SATotal SA, OMV AG and Statoil ASA.

Saharawi challenge EU-Morocco fishery deal

The European Union’s fisheries agreement with Morocco should be declared invalid because it includes the disputed territory of Western Sahara, an adviser to the EU’s top court said.

The EU and Morocco concluded an association agreement in 1996 and a partnership agreement in the fisheries sector in 2006, the validity of which was disputed by campaign groups in Britain.

“The fisheries exploitation by the EU of the waters adjacent to Western Sahara established and implemented by the contested acts does not respect the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination,” Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said.

The court often follows the Advocate General’s advice, but is not obliged to do so.

At present the territories of Western Sahara are partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

In 2016, the European Union (EU) declared that “Western Sahara is not part of Moroccan territory”. In March 2016, Morocco “expelled more than 70 U.N. civilian staffers with MINURSO” due to strained relations after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara an “occupation”.


Eastern Libya to launch its coins

Authorities in eastern Libya will circulate their own coins to ease shortages of money, a central bank official said. Another sign of dichotomy in the country that has two rival governments in east and west:  following ancient Cyrenaica and Tripolitania division.

Reportedly the new coins, made in Russia, will join Russian-made paper currency that has already been issued in the eastern half of the country, which is outside the control of the United Nations backing government based in Tripoli in the west.

Libya, once upon a time one of the richest countries in Africa, has faced a sharp decline in living standards since a 2011 NATO supported revolt, ending in assassination of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

The two rival governments and an array of armed groups are competing for control.

While the UN-backed government in Tripoli has struggled to control territory and make an impact, the east of the country has a separate cabinet with a prime minister, Tobruk parliament,  and a local branch of the central bank.

The new coins worth one Libyan dinar – about 75 US cents at the official rate but less than 12 cents on the black market – would be valid from November 2, replacing banknotes that are mostly worn out, said Ramzi al-Agha, head of the liquidity committee at the eastern central bank branch.

The coins are copper coloured, weigh slightly more than a two-euro coin or a new British pound and feature a picture of a plant native to eastern Libya’s Green Mountains, with the words “Central Bank of Libya”.


€200 million loan to Tunisia

The European Commission, on behalf of the EU, has today approved the disbursement of a €200 million loan to Tunisia.

This disbursement marks the launch of the second Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA-II) programme to Tunisia. A total of €500 million will be disbursed in three instalments in 2017 and 2018.

“Today’s disbursement to Tunisia is proof of our strong commitment to support the successful economic recovery of one of our closest neighbours. With a renewed sense of urgency, Tunisia has reaffirmed its dedication to an effective partnership. The EU stands firmly with Tunisia in achieving prosperity for all of its people” –Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said.

The second Macro-Financial Assistance programme was proposed following the terrorist attacks of 2015, which contributed to halting Tunisia’s economic recovery. This had a significant impact on the country’s balance of payments position and financing needs. The programme was agreed by the Council and the European Parliament on 6 July 2016.

The second and third instalments of the MFA-II (amounting to €150 million each) will be tied to the implementation of a number of policy conditions targeting fiscal consolidation as well as the improvement of Tunisia’s social assistance schemes and business climate.

The EU’s strategy of assistance to Tunisia also includes budget support programmes under the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), of which Tunisia is a major recipient among the Southern Neighbourhood countries, and substantial loans from the European Investment Bank.

EU response to MSF on Libya migrants

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, on accused the European Union and national governments of funding the criminal abuse of migrants in detention centers in Libya.

Libya’s EU-sponsored coast guard is picking up migrants trying to flee to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea and sending them back to Libya’s detention system, which is “a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion,” MSF International President Joanne said in an open letter to EU governments:

“European governments have chosen to contain people in this situation. People cannot be sent back to Libya, nor should they be contained there,” she wrote.

The EU’s executive Commission denied the allegations on cruel treatment of migrants in Libya and said that its priority is in fact to end the “vicious cycle” that sees people brought to the conflict-torn country by smugglers and then trapped in camps or detention centers.

EU continues investing in Tripoli

EU representatives from the EU Delegation to Libya, Operation Sophia and EUBAM met with the President of the Presidency Council, Fayez Al Serraj, and other Libyan officials in Tripoli, notably Deputy Minister of Defence Colonel Ewhida Abdullah Ewhida, the Chief of the Libyan Navy and the Chief of the Libyan Coastguard.

Discussions focused on the overall EU support to Libya and the Libyan needs, notably on capacity building for security institutions and the rule of law, border control and managing migration.

The mission took place just days after EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia, EUBAM Libya and the EU Liaison and Planning Cell supporting the peace and security process in Libya were renewed until December 2018.  On Operation Sophia, discussions focused on the implementation of the renewed mandate and tasks, notably on how to set up a monitoring mechanism to ensure the long-term efficiency of the training of the Libyan Coastguard.

The visit also followed the adoption of a new programme of €46 million under the EU Trust Fund for Africa on Friday 28 July, to reinforce the integrated migration and border management capacities of the Libyan authorities. It aims at stepping up activities in support of the Libyan Border- and Coast Guards to enhance their capacity to effectively manage the country’s borders. It complements the €90 million package adopted in April 2017 focused on the country stabilization and protection of IDPs, migrants, refugees and host communities in Libya.

The visit underlined the EU determination to support Libya, a close neighbour, at this important moment. EU financial support to Libya targets a wide range of sectors, among them health and education institutions, private sector development and local communities.

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