Seizure of Mazara del Vallo fishing vessels in Libya

Seizure of Mazara del Vallo fishing vessels in Libya

On 21 October Italian Members of the European Parliament Dino Giarrusso (NI), and  Pietro Bartolo (S&D) raised a priority question to the European Commission on the seizure of Mazara del Vallo fishing vessels in Libya.

On the night of 1 September, two fishing vessels from Mazara del Vallo – ‘Antartartide’ and ‘Medinea’ – were seized in international waters 35 miles north of Benghazi by a Libyan patrol boat working for the forces of General Haftar.

18 fishermen from the Mazara del Vallo fishing fleet – which has been operating for centuries in those same international waters to fish for red shrimp – were detained.

In 2005, through a unilateral declaration, Libya decided to extend its EEZ to 62 miles instead of the 12 miles provided for by international treaties.

The MEPs asked the Commission to answer the following questions:

1.         Will it endeavour to secure the release of the 18 fishermen who operate in a sector directly managed by the European Union?

2.         What is it doing at the diplomatic or legal level to settle this long-standing issue of the Libyan EEZ and the defence of the international waters in which European fishing vessels operate?

The High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell responded on behalf of the European Commission on 27 November stating that:

The conflict in Libya is a major challenge for the region and the EU’s security and stability. The EU’s priority is to put an end to the military conflict, ensure a transition in Libya, so the country can be a united, stable and reliable partner. To do so, the EU is actively engaged in the United Nations (UN)-led Berlin Process for Libya, the international framework to re-launch the political process in Libya endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2510.

The Commission fully supports a peaceful resolution of the issues mentioned by the Honourable Members, in line with the UN principle of prohibition of threat or use of force in international relations and the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Previously, the EU had called on the former Libyan authorities to ratify the UNCLOS Convention including in the context of the former dialogue on maritime and fisheries issues between the EU and Libya. Due to the political situation in Libya at that time, this dialogue was suspended. The EU will encourage Libya to become a party to UNCLOS once conditions are appropriate for such dialogue to be re-launched.

While the European External Action Service and EU Delegations in third countries actively facilitate the coordination and cooperation between Member State Embassies and Consulates, direct consular assistance to EU Citizens is a national responsibility of the Member States. Therefore, the Commission suggests to contact the respective Italian authorities directly in this matter.

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