EU coordinates with NATO on military mission

The European Union is intensifying contacts with NATO in preparation for an eventual EU military mission to support humanitarian efforts in Libya. The EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, restated the Union's willingness to send a mission when she met with NATO's foreign ministers in Berlin, on 15 April.

However, the EU is still waiting for a request from the United Nations before it can go ahead with the mission – and UN humanitarian officials are not convinced that a European military mission is needed.

“We also remain seriously concerned about the humanitarian situation in Libya and stand ready, if requested by the UN, to send an EU mission to support humanitarian efforts,” Ashton said in a statement released in Berlin. “Pending the request, the planning is at an advanced stage. And in this context we are coordinating with others, including NATO."

Ashton wrote, early in April, to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressing that the EU could use military assets to ensure that aid reaches the city of Misurata, which is besieged by pro-Gaddafi forces. But she has yet to receive a positive reply from the UN, where there is concern that the appearance of European troops on the ground could be counter-productive.

Any EU mission would need to be coordinated with NATO, since the alliance is running the maritime mission enforcing the arms embargo on Libya and the air operation against Gaddafi's forces.

Reports emerging from the Berlin meeting suggested that Turkey could be prepared to lift its long-standing opposition to increased NATO-EU cooperation in order to allow for an eventual EU humanitarian mission to run in coordination with NATO.

Turkey has blocked cooperation between the EU and NATO at a number of levels due to its concern over the role of Cyprus within the EU.

[Source: By Paul Annes, Europolitics, Brussels, 18Apr11]

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