EU member countries agreed on Wednesday to extend Operation Sophia, the anti-smuggling operation in the Mediterranean Sea, for another six months.
Yet the mission will no longer deploy ships, instead relying on increased air surveillance and continued cooperation with the Libyan coast guard — a compromise aimed at placating Italy. The decision has raised doubts over Operation Sophia’s efficacy.
“Member states have decided to extend the mandate … for six months with a temporary suspension of naval assets,” said Maja Kocijančič, a spokeswoman of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic body.
“It is also true that Sophia is a maritime operation and it’s clear that without naval assets, the operation will not be able to effectively implement its mandate, but the decision has been taken by member states,” she added.