At a meeting of foreign ministers from the 28 EU countries, the diplomats have discussed how to proceed with a divided Libya. They have also agreed to reopen Bosnia's path to membership status.
EU foreign ministers expressed reluctance towards military involvement into the tense situation in Libya on Monday, despite several EU nations having participated in the 2011 NATO bombing campaign to oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
"At the moment we've got to establish a ceasefire and get some unity between the warring factions within Libya before we can talk about how we might then support a peace - if there was peace to support," said British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond (pictured above right), whose nation played a leading role in the 2011 campaign, at a meeting with his counterparts from the other EU countries in Brussels.
Despite ending the decades of authoritarian rule under Gadhafi, Libya has been descending into civil war since Islamists forced the elected government to flee Tripoli last summer. The democratically-elected leaders fled to the city of Tobruk, effectively creating parallel governments in the east and west of the country. The "Islamic State" ("IS") terrorist group has taken advantage of this division to gain a foothold in the country.
The crisis in Libya directly affects the EU in the form of waves of migrants who risk a dangerous and often fatal journey across the Mediterranean Sea to flee the violence.
However there is a "small glimmer of hope," as Germany's top diplomat Frank-Walter Steinmeier (above left) put it, for UN-brokered peace talks in Morocco still exists as both governments have agreed to take a seat at the negotiating table once more and discuss the possibility of a unity government.
Should the talks fail, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo suggested that sanctions such as asset freezes or an oil embargo should be consider "before a military intervention."
EU opens the door to Bosnia
The diplomats also used the Brussels conference to reopen Bosnia and Herzegovina's path to eventual EU membership after letting its initial agreement languish for years.
Now, under a new push from Germany and Great Britain, the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Bosnia, originally signed in 2008, is proceeding towards formal adoption.
Bosnia has trailed behind its former Yugoslav counterparts on the road to EU accession. Its development following the 1992-1995 war, which cost 100,000 lives, has been stifled by a highly decentralized government that divided power along ethnic lines, eventually spurring massive civil unrest in February of last year.
Brussels first wants to encourage economic reform in order to alleviate high unemployment and widespread poverty before addressing the thorny issues of political reform in Sarajevo. In a statement, the foreign ministers said that as long as Bosnia's leadership plans to "fully uphold its commits and obligations…and remain engaged with the European Union" the SAA may progress to a formal application to join the EU.
es/kms (dpa, Reuters)