Members from the European Mission 'Sophia' operating in the Mediterranean Sea | Photo: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ
Members from the European Mission 'Sophia' operating in the Mediterranean Sea | Photo: EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

The EU's Political and Security Committee has approved a three-month extension for Operation Sophia, the bloc's mission against human trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea whose mandate was set to expire on December 31. But there are still many issues regarding border protection and migration that the 28 EU countries disagree on.

The decision to extend Operation Sophia came on the second day of the EU summit held in Brussels on December 13 and 14. Though migration was not even the central topic of the summit (Brexit was), it ended up being the cause of friction once again with many losing their patience altogether. 


At the end of the summit, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker criticized what he viewed as the hypocrisy of those calling for more secure borders but who are blocking Frontex reform at the same time.

He also accused some European leaders of spreading false news, such as Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban.

Divisions in the EU 

Even Belgium, which on the Global Compact issue has lost part of the government, called for those blocking the reform of the Dublin Rules on asylum to be removed from the Schengen zone. It also asked Brussels for an investigation into misinformation spread on social media on the UN agreement.

Despite six months of negotiations, the 28-member bloc is still divided on Operation Sophia. The EU mission in the Mediterranean was due to expire at the end of this month, but has received a three-month extension in a last-minute attempt to achieve an agreement at the beginning of the year to review the rules of engagement and the distribution of migrants taken to Italian ports. 

Faced with EU conclusions that are even vaguer than usual, in which there are no expiration dates for the Dublin reform nor for the Frontex one, Juncker said that he was losing his patience. 

He said that though ''everyone says they want better protection of external borders'', a proposal on the table for a 10,000-strong EU border guard agency had been refused by those claiming to be the most interested in border control - among them are Hungary and Italy, who oppose the measure for reasons of national sovereignty. 

Juncker rails against governments supporting fake news 

Some heads of state and governments were also spreading fake news on issues ranging from migrants to Brexit, Juncker said, such as ''when Orban says I am responsible'' for Brexit or that migrants were. 

The countdown for Visegrad countries - meaning the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - who do not want to accept migrants could come soon, said Belgian prime minister Charles Michel. There is ''ever more agreement'' among EU states to remove those blocking Dublin reform from the Schengen zone, he said. Michel asked the European Commission to open an investigation into ''manipulated information'' on the Global Compact circulated online with a deliberate desire to destabilize EU democracies. 
 

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