Defence Minister Buljević confirms Croatia’s support for a major European initiative.
Together with other EU member states, Croatia is ready to contribute to the establishment of the Libyan coast guard to tackle the problem of refugee smuggling, said Croatian Defence Minister Josip Buljević after the European Union offered to Libya economic and humanitarian assistance worth 100 million euros, reports tportal.hr on April 20, 2016.
Buljević was in Luxembourg where he participated in a meeting of the EU defence ministers, who primarily discussed the situation in Libya. The European Union hopes that the establishment of a government in Libya will prevent the Islamic State in creating its new stronghold in Libya and will prevent smuggling operations on the Libyan coast where smugglers take the refugees which are then transferred to Sicily.
Therefore, the EU is considering the expansion of the Sophia marine operation which has the goal of combating the smuggling of refugees and was established in 2015. “The meeting discussed ways how to improve the Sophia operation, where the European countries, including Croatia, will give their contribution, probably through training of Libyan forces and Libyan coast guard”, said Buljević.
“It was concluded that the EU would further engage in support of the Libyan national unity government. We have also talked about how to activate 100 million euros in aid to help ease the situation on the ground, and also how to unfreeze Libyan assets because Libya is not a poor country and has enough of its own resources and capacities to ensure its smooth functioning”, said Buljević.
Minister Buljević also held a bilateral meeting with High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini. They discussed the development of a common EU policy towards Libya, especially in the context of security and increasing its defence capabilities. They also discussed the situation in the Croatian southeast neighbourhood and the problem of growing radicalization, the area in which the High Representative shown a special interest for cooperation. It was agreed that the further cooperation on future projects of interest to the European Union will continue, announced the Defence Ministry in its statement.