EU Divided Over Military Mission for Libyan Humanitarian Response

Catherine Ashton, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, participates in an international conference on Libya on April 14, 2011, at the headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by: Paulo Filgueiras / United Nations

European Union member states are divided on whether or not the bloc should send a military mission to assist in the humanitarian response to the Libyan crisis.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt blocked the adoption of a proposed operational plan for the humanitarian mission at an April 12 meeting of EU foreign ministers, the European Voice reports. Bildt argued that adopting the plan would send the wrong signal since the United Nations still has access to the Libyan city of Misrata, which is under siege by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands consider the plan immature and are not likely to support it, the European Voice says, citing an unnamed diplomat, who added that Italy’s foreign minister also has “strong doubts” about using military missions to deliver humanitarian aid.

Meantime, Germany has pledged to participate in the proposed military mission, the news agency adds.

The operational plan was proposed by EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who wanted EU member states to authorize the military mission without waiting for the United Nations to request it, the European Voice says. The news agency says Valerie Amos, the top U.N. aid and relief official, has told Ashton in a letter that humanitarian operations in Libya do not need military support at present.

In the Cairo conference on Libya,Ashton pledged the EU’s “longer term” support for the nation.

“Together with the Arab League, the African Union, the United Nations, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, we want to play a crucial role in helping to stabilise the country, in building a constitutional state and developing democracy and the rule of law,” Ashton said on Thursday (April 14) in Egypt.

During the conference, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon warned of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Libya.

“Within Libya itself, the picture is especially grave,” Ban said, noting that access to basic services and basic commodities in the cities of Misrata, Brega and Zintan has been largely cut off.

Meanwhile, New Zealand is offering $1 million to support humanitarian efforts in Libya. The International Federation of the Red Cross will manage the funding.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.