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If the strategic objective is to stabilize and rebuild the coastal states of the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea in order to protect national, African and European interests tied to the preservation of energy supply sources as well as to defeat, once and for all the criminal organizations that manage the smuggling of human beings, the Italian state shall adopt certain lines of action that must be concerted with the EU, the UN, the states of origin, the states of transit of illegal migrants as well as with the flag states of NGO ships, moving from the national to the multinational organizational and legal dimension.

The main landmark conventions are the UN Law of the Sea and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime adopted in Palermo, both ratified by the Italian Parliament. In essence, a full-fledged international civil-military operation, with as a necessary precondition the consent and direct involvement of the UN-recognized governments of the southern shore of the Mediterranean, the aggregation of European nations, and the establishment of hot-spots in Africa - not far from the states of origin - funded by the UN, managed and controlled by the EU for the definition of international protection and the eventual granting of political asylum.

For those who are not eligible, let the EU plan and program their return - voluntary or forced - to their states of origin by bilateral agreements that include persuasive economic, military, diplomatic, and trade cooperation clauses. Let command and control, surveillance, mixed patrolling in territorial waters be shared with local law enforcement agencies. Let the primary goal of the operation be to interdict and eradicate human trafficking and any descendant illegal and clandestine migration attempts from Libya and Tunisia to Europe. The secondary goal be to block all illegal activities taking place by sea, since countering terrorism and threats to energy security, land and submarine pipelines, fuel transport ships, loading and storage ports or otherwise, is already a NATO institutional task.

Similarly to the agreement in place for Somalia, where with Operation Atalanta of the civilian-military mission "Eunavfor Somalia," the EU, with the consent of the Somali government, counteracts the threat of pirates and other illicit trafficking through naval interdiction in Somali territorial waters, military personnel involved in the operation in the Mediterranean shall detain and transfer persons suspected of committing illicit acts and seize vessels as well as weapons and equipment found on board. Persons suspected of having committed such acts are to be tried at the EU member state that captured them, either by the state to which the seized merchant vessel belongs or, pursuant to specific agreements with the EU signed by the coastal states, discretionarily by the Authorities of those countries.

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The Operation Atalanta European Naval Force operates in an area between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and part of the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles Islands, which represents an area of sea that is similar in size to the entire Mediterranean Sea. Regarding the flag states of NGO ships such as Germany and Norway that insist on pointing to Italy as the only landing point, encouraging with their pull factor the business of human trafficking, they should respect the EU Dublin Regulation that imposes on those states - where the first illegal crossing of the European border takes place - the responsibility for international protection of any refugees and related political asylum. The set of international and European rules places on the flag state the obligation - sanctionable under international law - to exercise an effective regulatory function and effective control, certification and sanctioning powers to protect interests attributable to the international community as a whole, such as human life or the marine environment. Without a flag, a ship cannot sail.

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Senior Fellow of the Centro Studi Machiavelli. Admiral of division (res.), former commander of destroyers and frigates, he has held important diplomatic, financial, technical and strategic assignments for the Defence and Navy Chiefs of Staff, both at home and abroad, at sea and on land, pursuing the application of capabilities aimed at making the Italian defence and security policy effective.