At the Libya peace summit in Berlin in January, attendees agreed to an arms embargo in an effort to successfully implement a ceasefire. The weeks since have shown this effort to largely be a farce, as weapons, troops, and advisors continue to pour into Libya, supporting both warring factions and escalating the conflict. Addressing these shortcomings, foreign ministers of the European Union agreed on February 17 to launch a new mission in the Mediterranean Sea to better enforce the embargo.
Suggestions by Italy to include a naval component has created a sticking point for the negotiations, as some EU members worry that doing so may also revive Operation Sophia, set up in 2015 to disrupt migrant smuggling routes but which led to a rise in Europe-bound migrants. Austria has been leading the opposition to such efforts, echoed by Hungary, whose right-wing government has taken a strong stance against immigration. Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio assured the dissenters that if the new missions created a “pull factor”, another way of saying if it attracted migrants, “the mission will be stopped”.