Friday

27th Apr 2018

EU gives free rein to anti-pirate warships

  • The EU naval force off the coast of Somalia can now launch attacks on its coastline (Photo: Council of European Union)

Pirates off the coast of Somalia will now have to contend with an EU naval force mandated on Friday (23 March) by EU member states to launch attacks on its inner coastal territory.

Two additional French warships joined the EU naval force, dubbed Operation Atalanta Forces, off the Somali coast on Friday. One of the French frigates is a mobile operating base able to carry 16 helicopters.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

A spokesperson at the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) Somalia declined to comment if the French warship is actually carrying any helicopters or what their targets would be if they did.

"No decision has been made and what kind of operations will take place," he told EUobserver from the United Kingdom. "But no boots will be on the ground."

For his part, German deputy defence minister Christian Schmidt told press in Brussels on Thursday that helicopters would be used to strike against moored pirate boats, trucks or fuel depots. "This should be limited actions against assets on the edge of the beach," he noted.

Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, who is the operational commander of the EU naval force, also warned that "piracy has caused so much misery to the Somali people and to the crews of ships transiting the area and it is right that we continue to move forward in our efforts."

At the same time as widening the scope of operations, the EU also extended the anti-pirate mission's overall mandate on Friday by two years.

Including the two French warships, Operation Atalanta Forces now has a total of six EU surface combat vessels patrolling a zone 30 times the surface-area of England.

Aside from the Somali coastal territory and its territorial and internal waters, the ships also cover the south of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Western part of the Indian Ocean including the Seychelles.

The EU mission is not alone ,however.

Nato and other countries, including India, China, Iran and South Korea are also on the scene. Monitoring and patrolling the area can be tricky as seasonal factors affect the number of locations where pirates launch their attacks.

"During the inter-monsoon period quite every location along the coast may be used to launch skiffs and whalers, including southern coast locations," the EU Navfor spokesperson told EUobserver.

Most pirates operate mainly around Xarardheere, Hobyo and Bandarbeyla towns along an eastern stretch of the country, though some activities have also been spotted in the northern territory. Pirated vessels are typically anchored around these three towns.

EU Navfor's more pro-active military stance is a departure from its initial duties in 2008, which were to protect vessels of the World Food Programme delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia.

Despite a 68 percent drop in the number of piracy attacks since last September, the EU maintains that piracy remains a serious threat. Alone, Somali piracy reportedly costs the global economy some €5.3 billion a year.

The EU wants to work with the country's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and other Somali entities to stem piracy. But just about the entire country, except for its capital Mogadishu, is controlled by Al Shabaab militants who recently announced an alliance with Al Qaeda.

Last year, pirates boarded around 30 ships and held some 700 hostages. Over 200 hostages are still being held. Some, such as one South African couple, have been detained for over a year and half.

Some experts believe the renewed EU naval force mandate will only drive pirates to use different tactics.

"We don't think it's going to help that much," Ernst Jan Hoogendoorn, Horn of Africa project director at the International Crisis Group, told EUobserver from Nairobi.

"Pirates will adapt to the new constraints imposed upon them by Operation Atalanta Forces," he added, explaining that they will simply move the fuelling stations and other targeted assets further inland and into civilian-heavy areas.

EU steps up aid to famine-stricken Somalis

The EU on Wednesday said it would double its humanitarian aid to €158 million in Somalia referring to the "very dramatic" drought and famine in the country.

Interview

Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs

The EU should not share out military HQs for political reasons if it wants effective armed forces, Italy's former defence chief tells EUobserver.

Feature

Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Spanish special forces seized a boat from African 'pirates' as diplomats watched on Monday, in a drill marking Spain's bid to grab a top EU military mission from the UK.

EU toes the line on Syria air strikes

EU foreign ministers to back Western air strikes on Syria, the same way they backed the UK over Russia's chemical attack on an ex-spy in Britain.

Analysis

Is Germany more hawkish on Russia?

Germany's socialist foreign minister just said the EU should "step up pressure" on Russia. Merkel aired "political" doubts on a Russian pipeline.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  2. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  3. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  6. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  7. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  9. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  10. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  11. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  12. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off

Latest News

  1. EU tells platforms to sort fake news by October or face new law
  2. Civil society chief: social media can't replace engagement
  3. The reality behind the €7 'Brexit bombshell visa'
  4. Commission wants bigger post-Brexit budget
  5. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  6. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  7. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs
  8. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  2. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  6. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  9. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  10. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  11. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  12. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe