Italy has agreed to a 90-day extension of the EUNAVFOR MED mandate in order to permit continued EU negotiations regarding changes to EUNAVFOR MED’s mission, including changes relating to the places rescued migrants could be disembarked. The current mandate expires on 31 December 2018. Italy has to date refused to agree to an extension of the mandate in the absence of changes to the disembarkation rules or the Dublin Regulation. Italy’s insistence on changes to disembarkation rules have become less important given the very small numbers of migrants rescued by the EUNAVFOR MED mission. The Brussels 2 website reports that EUNAVFOR MED has only rescued 106 migrants over the past five months whereas the Libyan Coast Guard has intercepted and pulled back over 14,000 migrants and refugees in 2018.
ANSA reported that the “Italian government decided to extend the mission after a meeting convened by Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta, Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Enzo Vecciarelli, Mission Commander Adm. Enrico Credentino, and Foreign Ministry Secretary General Elisabetta Belloni. … Defence Minister Elisabetta Trenta …wished to avoid a brusque closure of the mission….
… Meanwhile, in Brussels, negotiations surrounding the renewal of the mission’s mandate are stalled in the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC). A new meeting is scheduled prior to the EU Council on Thursday and Friday. On the table is a possible six-month extension tied to the effort to find a medium-term solution on the issue of ports of disembarkation.”