Under Operation Sophia, naval vessels will be able to board, search, seize and divert vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling.
Until now, the EU had focused on surveillance and rescue operations.
Operation Sophia has been named after a baby born on an EU ship that rescued her mother off the coast of Libya in August.
However, many more migrants and refugees which are mainly Syrians fleeing the country’s civil war, are taking a different route, crossing overland into Turkey, before a short journey by sea to EU member Greece and Onward to central and northern European countries, with Germany the preferred destination.
The migrant crisis is expected to be one of the issues raised when German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and French President, Francois Hollande, make a rare joint address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
Such address was given in 1989 with then French President, Francois Mitterrand and the German leader, Helmut Kohl.
So far this year, more than 130,000 migrants and refugees have crossed to Europe from the north African coast. More than 2,700 have drowned.