Why the EU needs NATO on the Mediterranean Sea rather than the Aegean Sea?

The increasing number of Mediterranean refugees in the last few years has created not only political and economic pressures on countries receiving migrants but also, an alarming humanitarian crisis, specifically within transit areas to Europe: the Aegean and Mediterranean. The EU, unfortunately, has not delivered an apt solution in dealing with the humanitarian crisis in its sea borders. The flow of illegal migration in the Mediterranean and Aegean has been buttressed by the EU’s harmful approach. Other global actors, especially, NATO has been put in the limelight to deal with the above-mentioned illegal migration phenomenon. Last year, NATO became part of the refugee crisis within the Aegean Sea by spearheading the attempts of Germany. The role of NATO, within the context of dealing with the crisis, can be described as consisting of the air and sea support to the coast guards of Turkey and Greece. NATO has highlighted its duty as ‘‘monitoring and surveillance activities to provide critical information to the Greek and Turkish coastguards.The operation governs under the structure of SNMG-2 (Standing NATO Maritime Group) generally in order to provide data and coordination to local Turkish and Greek coast guards who have a deterrent role on the dangerous journey of asylum seekers.


The Aegean Mission is Complete

Since February 2016, the SNMG-2 within the Aegean Sea maintains its services; however, the functionality of the operations are being questioned by Turkish authorities, who regard it as supporting to EU rather than Turkey. This is made evident with the following argument of Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu: ‘‘This was a temporary mission, and the goal has been reached in this temporary mission. There is no need to extend it further’’. The expression of Turkish authorities makes it clear that there is no need for further NATO assistance in the Aegean region. The aptitude of Turkey and Greece is consistently sufficient on a structural level for smooth cooperation in the Aegean sea without the assistance of NATO. Furthermore, it is clearly observable that, both sides of Aegean do not enjoy the existence of NATO operations within their territories. The ongoing process according to NATO Headquarters has had favorable results. ‘‘It’s been a very successful mission that reduced the migrant traffic by about 95 percent.’’  The Aegean Sea is spanned by two prime NATO members who are equipped with structural and fundamental institutions capable of dealing with the humanitarian crisis. Greece and Turkey’s cooperation and partnership could in achieving long-term stability in the combating of illegal migration traffic. The partnership between Turkey and Greece in ensuring stability and security over the  Aegean Sea could maintain its function with the sufficient level of attention; however,  the Mediterranean Sea does not have the same level of cooperation in the combat against illegal immigration. On top of this, failed states in Africa have facilitated some of the aforementioned illegal crossings. NATO and other global actors should direct their attention to the Central Mediterranean sea routes between Libya and the Europe.

NATO should exhibit an active role in the Mediterranean Sea

Primarily, the main flow of illegal immigration, displaying signs of only intensifying in the coming months, originates from the Libyan coast. After the fall of the totalitarian Gaddafi regime, Libya has been transformed into a failed state with a lack of central authority and devoid of the basic institutions of statehood. A fractured society and the lack of government institutions make Libya a hotspot for illegal immigration. Libya needs, rather than cash flow, the attention of the international community to stabilize authority and institutions. Conversely, the EU has ignored the political turmoil in Libya, proceeding with an ineffective deal against the tide of illegal migration.


Can a NATO Presence Establish Security and Stability in the Central Mediterranean?

The conventional design of NATO against massive invasion risks does not act as an efficient model to thwart humanitarian crises. While examples of important NATO assistance disasters like the  Pakistan Earthquake and the SNMG-2 operations into the Aegean Sea do exist, the flow of migrants in the central Mediterranean presents pertinent obstacles. Criminal networks are exploiting the hopes migrants in exchange for large amounts of money. To deal with illegal migration, a staggering fight against criminal networks is indispensable for global actors.Therefore, cooperation between national and international security and intelligence agencies should be compiled more efficiently. Interpol can be regarded as a more effective actor instead of NATO in dealing criminal organizations.  Nonetheless, it is easy to say that the lack of the security institutions in Libya is the prime reason for stillborn deals on illegal immigration flows. When the UN-backed Libyan government does not have sufficient power to maintain its authority, the EU cannot expect a healthy partnership to take form.

While eurocrats expect aptitude similar to that of Turkey from Libya it has to be pointed out that Turkey has fundamental institutions, staff, and regulations to deal with illegal immigration. NATO’s role should focus on the search, detection, and providing of secure return to the country of origin rather than focusing on illegal criminal networks. NATO has previously failed to provide effective assistance in the Aegean, according to local Greek and Turkish officials. A failed state cannot provide the services to maintain the continuation of cooperation with the European Union. The Mediterranean Sea, unfortunately, is a host of harmful and illegal journeys due in part to the failed state status of Libya.

In order to prevent the new flow of the immigrants into the EU, the eurocrats must take into account the help of NATO in the Mediterranean Sea instead of the Aegean Sea. While a singular NATO presence may not thwart illegal crossings, assisting Frontex and cooperation with European countries may facilitate peace in the Mediterranean Sea.