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Until recently, discussions with Libya on migration have taken place largely at bilateral level, i.e. almost exclusively with Italy. Since the late 1990s, Italy has engaged in a number of formal and informal diplomatic initiatives with the northern African country in order to bring under control irregular migration across the Mediterranean. This has started to change with the increasing role being played by the European Union (EU). Notably, on 12–13 November 2008 the negotiations for the EU–Libya framework agreement were officially launched. These aim to strengthen relations between the European Community, its member states and Libya. The deepening interaction between Libya and the EU alongside established bilateral cooperative arrangements is one of the main concerns of this paper. Our analysis seeks to unpack and understand the gradual intertwining of bilateral relations between two states – Italy and Libya – and those between states and supranational actors that we shall here qualify as ‘supralateral’. In questioning prevailing accounts of the manner in which the EU externalises migration control policies, this paper draws attention to the multiple reciprocal interactions at the levels of migration framing, institutional setting and modes of compliance.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



Libya, Italy, European Union, migration