05 Apr 2024


Today, 5 April, the change of command of the Task Force 464 took place at Taranto Naval Base.

Aboard the Greek frigate HS ELLI, the Italian Rear Admiral Armando SIMI appointed by the EU Political and Security Committee, took over from Rear Admiral Konstantinos BAKALAKOS, Greek Navy, who has been the Force Commander in the last six months. The ceremony was chaired by the Operation Commander, Rear Admiral Stefano TURCHETTO.

The EU Task Force includes Air Patrolling and Naval Units, deployed by 23 EU Member States and operating in the international waters between Europe and Libya. Moreover it counts on operational bases and logistic support facilities ashore in Italy and Greece.

The Force Commander, supported by a multinational staff of around 20, is embarked on the Flagship to exercises his command function. He reports to the Operation Commander located in Rome at the EU Naval Force in Mediterranean Operation IRINI Headquarters.

Chairing the ceremony, Rear Admiral Stefano Turchetto thanked Rear Admiral BAKALAKOS for the extraordinary commitment and great professionalism shown throughout a semester of intense activity. The Men and Women under Rear Admiral BAKALAKOS command and his predecessor before, stood with passion and determination, night and day, patrolling the Area of Operation in support of the Arms Embargo imposed by the United Nations, carrying out 13.844 Investigations on transiting merchant vessels (hailings), 603 Friendly visits on board (Friendly Approaches) and 27 Physical Inspections of suspected vessels (boardings). Also the air traffic directed to and from Libya was observed with a total of 1388 flights, potentially involved in illicit activities.

The implementation of the UN arms embargo on Libya was not the only task wisely and effectively carried out by Rear Admiral BAKALAKOS. As part of a wider European Integrated approach towards the African Country and North Africa Region, IRINI tasks include also the monitoring of several other illegal activities, namely humans smuggling and oil trafficking, in the international waters off the Libyan Coast, also threatening stability in the region and security in the Mediterranean. Operation IRINI is an EU Executive Operation in the framework of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) launched in 2020 by the EU.

Rear Admiral BAKALAKOS handed the Command of the Task Force 464 over to the Italian Rear Admiral Armando SIMI, an experienced and skilled Italian Flag Officer that with his force headquarters embarked on the Italian Off Shore Patrol Vessel, ITS Paolo Thaon de Revel, the new Operation IRINI Flagship, will continue a long tradition of excellent EU Commanders at the helm of the Task Force.

Background and description of the Operation

Operation IRINI, launched on 31st March 2020, represents the EU’s important contribution to the efforts of the International Community for security and peace in Libya. The European Union is the only international actor actively supporting the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions establishing the arms embargo on Libya in the Mediterranean Sea.

Operation IRINI also has secondary tasks, including gathering information for the Security Council to prevent illegal oil exports from Libya and human trafficking in the region. IRINI has already produced 52 reports for the UN Security Council.

The operation relies on the active support of 23 European Member States providing ships, aircraft and personnel. Despite the ongoing invasion in Ukraine, the Middle East crisis, and lately the Red Sea attacks to the International Commercial Traffic, two naval units, six aircraft and over 600 people are today permanently assigned to IRINI, with additional ships and aircrafts joining the operation deployed by MS on a non-continuous basis.

Over the past four years, Operation IRINI has successfully maintained a balanced and impartial posture in support of the ceasefire in effect in Libya since 2020. From its launch, Operation IRINI has investigated over 13.800 merchant vessels, executed 603 friendly visits and conducted 27 military inspections on suspect ships.

The most important results for the operation, in addition to the natural deterrence effect of its presence in the Central Mediterranean, are the seizures, in different events, of almost 150 Vehicles directed to Libya in violation of the UN arms embargo. 105 of those armoured vehicles modified for military use, were handed over by the EU to The Republic of Ghana at the end of October 2023 in the presence of the EU HR VP Ambassador Josep BORRELL.