The European Union will move a step forward in its campaign to curb piracy in the Gulf of Aden by dispatching a team of advisers to train Somali security forces to protect shipping in the region, EU foreign ministers said after a council meeting in Brussels on July 27.
Somalia’s government has consistently maintained that the best way of combating the piracy is not international military intervention but help for Somali forces to enable them to police their own neighborhood.
This initiative comes on top of the on-going naval presence of a small EU taskforce to patrol shipping lanes in these dangerous waters.
The foreign ministers’ decision did not specify any concrete details about the new mission, beyond saying that the training will be conducted in Djibouti, a nearby coastal country that hosts a French military base. An EU planning team will visit the region next month to frame the proposed training arrangements.
Skepticism about the EU’s ability to deliver on this plan came from Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, who said that the decision reflects good intentions that, by themselves, will not have any tangible impact. ”France is the only one for the moment that is determined to do anything. I hope that will change,” he said in commenting on the EU decision.
France has consistently been the leader in Europe in fighting the piracy that has become a major threat to shipping in international waters off Somalia. French forces have killed three Somali pirates and captured an additional 70 – some of whom are being put on trial by courts on French territory.
The collective EU anti-piracy campaign started in December 2008 with a one-year mission called Operation Atalanta. An extension of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), it is the first-ever maritime mission in this framework. Although it is a controversial policy in some EU countries, this EU NAVFOR Somalia has been extended for a year through December 2010.
More than two dozen warships from EU nations are now currently patrolling an area of roughly two million square miles (five million sq km) off the Somali coast, according to a BBC article. The roster of this naval presence is not always clear, but it certainly includes surface ships and patrol aircraft from Britain, France, Germany and Italy. There are also reportedly contributions from Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden.