31st Oct 2020

MEPs say EU anti-pirate mission is 'military nonsense'

  • The Wednesday hearing: NAVCO officials faced strong opposition from MEPs (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU naval mission to be deployed against pirates off the coasts of Somalia is a "military nonsense," "morally wrong" and has "no international legal basis," several MEPs said at a hearing in Brussels on Wednesday (15 November), as delegates from the EU council and the bloc's military co-ordination cell defended the project.

If approved by member states in November, the EU's first naval mission will consist of five or six ships from different EU countries under the command of UK vice-admiral Philip Jones and with headquarters in Northwood, Great Britain, Mrs Claude-France Arnould from the EU council - the secretariat of EU top diplomat Javier Solana - told MEPs.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Russia is also in "military talks" to offer help, but with no political decision reached yet, captain Andres Breijo Claur, the head of the EU's "NAVCO" co-ordination cell, said. NAVCO was set up in order to co-ordinate the different existing naval forces in the waters off the Somali coast, including NATO and US led counter-terrorism task forces.

Since January this year, heavily armed pirates operating in the region where Somalia's northeastern tip meets the Indian Ocean have carried out 71 attacks on ships and still hold 11 ships for ransom. The maritime route is of strategic importance not only to food aid for African countries, but also because it leads to the Suez Canal through which an estimated 30 percent of the world's oil transits.

NATO members at an informal meeting last week in Budapest agreed to despatch immediately a joint fleet of NATO ships to escort UN vessels delivering food in the area.

Under fire from several MEPs who said the EU is needlessly duplicating NATO efforts, the council's Mrs Arnould said NATO has not actually deployed any ships yet, with individual efforts from countries like Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands now and then escorting UN ships for the time being.

Calling the planned EU mission "military nonsense" and a "desperate attempt" by the French EU presidency "to run up the EU flag on another military operation during its time in office," British Conservative MEP Geoffrey van Orden said.

"It is a pity that the British government has agreed to an EU naval operation at the same time that NATO will be engaged in the same waters. Not only does this introduce unnecessary complexity and political confusion but it stretches our meagre naval assets even further. Bear in mind that in the last 10 years the destroyer and frigate fleet of the Royal Navy has been reduced from 35 to 25," he told EUobserver.

Greek MEP Giorgos Dimitrakopoulos from the EPP-ED group criticized the set up of a "global armada," while German green MEP Angelika Beer underlined the lack of international law to sustain the proposed European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) mission.

"There is no clarity to the limitations of this mandate. Will the EU be able to sink ships and arrest pirates?" she asked.

Portuguese socialist MEP Ana Maria Gomes gave a fiery speech on the "moral problem" of the EU mission, which, in her opinion, is only about "protecting oil tankers."

"Nobody gives a damn about the people in Somalia who die like flies," she said.


Europe is back in (partial) lockdown

The burden on healthcare systems all across the bloc, as a result of the autumn surge in coronavirus infections, is triggering new nationwide lockdowns and restrictive measures in nearly every EU member state.

Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study

A new report on gender equality in the EU makes it clear: improved gender equality in decision-making is the main driver of progress in the EU. And most progress so far is due to outliers Sweden, Denmark and France.


I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?

There is a persistent problem of 'fake observers.' Often the government of the country they are observing, or even the election management body itself, pays for these observers, holds fancy dinners, and puts them in five-star hotels.

Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law

Much still depends on if the German EU presidency is willing to sign up to a strict time limit for member states to decide on possible sanctions in the new rule-of-law conditionality.


EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook

Belgian microbiologist Peter Piot offered a bleak assessment of available options to rid the world of the pandemic caused by Covid-19. Aside from wishful thinking, millions of possible deaths, and crushing poverty, a vaccine appears to be the only solution.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

EU Commission unveils 'adequate minimum wage' plan

The European Commission proposed minimum standards to ensure adequate minimum wages all across the EU. But the proposal does not oblige member states to harmonise their systems, nor does it set a common minimum wage level.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us