01 Oct 2023

Operation IRINI: Change of the Task Force Commander

Today, 1st of October 2023, took place the Task Force 464 Change of Command ceremony, presided by Rear Admiral Stefano Turchetto, Italian Navy, EUNAVFORMED IRINI Operation Commander.

In the beautiful setting of the Port of Naples at the Angioino Pier, on the flying deck of the Italian Navy Landing Ship ITS SAN GIUSTO and flagship of the Operation, the event saw RearAdmiral Valentino RINALDI, Italian Navy, Force Commander for the last six months, leaving honors and burdens of commanding the European Force to Commodore Kostantinos BAKALAKOS, Greek Navy.

The Force Commander has at his disposal all the air and the naval units operating in the waters off the coast of Libya, as well as the Irini’s operational bases and logistical support structures ashore.

He reports directly to the Operation Commander, and, supported by a multinational staff making up his Headquarters, embarks on the Flagship and exercises the tactical command and control of the force from the sea.

Throughout a semester of intense activity within the European Task Force, Rear Admiral RINALDI led with passion, determination and great professionalism all the men and women assigned to IRINI Force Headquarter. The Force under his command reached in June a peak of 4 naval units and 6 air assets deployed in support to IRINI from different EU Member States. Thanks to his outstanding leadership and dedication the Task Force effectively patrolled the Area of Operation, implementingthe UN arms embargo and supporting the international efforts to fight the smuggling of oil products from and to Libya and the trafficking of humans.

Commodore Bakalakos, appointed like his predecessor by the EU Political and Security Committee, was already serving in the operation for the past six months as the Chief of Staff at IRINI Operational Headquarters (OHQ) in Rome.

The Greek Frigate, HS Aegean, has taken over the Flagship duty from ITS San Giusto. The Flagship, as well as the Force Commander, is assigned on a six-month rotation by Italy and Greece.

Background and description of the Operation

Operation IRINI, launched on 31 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 42 reports for the UN Security Council.

The operation relies on the active support of 23 European Member States. They provide ships, aircraft and personnel. Currently, despite a period of international crisis, two naval units, six aircraft and over 600 people are assigned to IRINI, with additional ships and aircraft participating in the operation on a non-continuous basis.

Over the past two and a half years, Operation IRINI hassuccessfully maintained a balanced and impartial approach. Since the beginning, IRINI has investigated almost 12.000 merchantvessels, conducted over 550 friendly visits and 26 militaryinspections.

It is important to underline that in the last year, about 150 armored vehicles modified for military-use were seized because they were found in violation of the embargo. Those vehicles have not reached Libya, where a fragile ceasefire is currently in place between the opposed factions.