The European Union's foreign policy chief says that a naval operation to disrupt the trafficking networks that send thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean into Europe could be launched in the coming weeks.

Federica Mogherini said on Monday she expected that a meeting of EU foreign and defense ministers would agree to establish the EU operation. Once it has done that, it would need to generate sufficient ships and other equipment and a specific military plan before action could be taken.

Under Monday's proposals, some parts of the plan could be enforced independently but a possible destruction of boats would need U.N. approval, officials said.