Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

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.

Two EU states break ranks on Jerusalem

Hungary and the Czech Republic have broken EU ranks on US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite warnings it could bring back 'darker times'.

Watchdogs concerned by EU-US data pact

European data protection authorities tell US to improve oversight on 'Privacy Shield' scheme, otherwise they would go to the EU's highest court.

News in Brief

  1. EU to Israel: Don't expect us to move embassies
  2. EU Commission condemns anti-semitic 'Jerusalem' protests
  3. Ministers have 'lots of questions' on new CAP plans
  4. Commission: Brexit agreement is 'deal between gentlemen'
  5. 25 EU states sign defence cooperation pact
  6. Netanyahu wants 'hardy' talks with EU on Jerusalem
  7. French centre-right elects new leader
  8. Germany and UK increase arms sales

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Alignment with EU is 'last resort', May tells MPs
  2. Iceland: further from EU membership than ever
  3. Israel presses Jerusalem claim in EU capital
  4. From dark coal toward a brighter future
  5. UK casts doubt on EU deal in 'bizarre' twist
  6. Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership
  7. Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants
  8. No chance of expanding EU warrant crime list

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level