EU Member States have decided to extend the mandate of the EU anti-piracy naval mission off the coast of Somalia both in terms of scope and duration. EU Navfor Atalanta will now run until 12 December 2016 and will include several new secondary objectives, designed to combat piracy and its root causes more effectively, by coordinating with and providing assistance to other EU initiatives in the area, as well as monitoring and reporting on illegal fishing activities.
Although currently in recession, Somali piracy has by no means been eradicated and the threat of hijackings is still very real. A combination of factors has in the last few years contributed to the pronounced drop in the number of attempted and successful attacks, namely the use of private armed guards on board ships, the presence of international naval units patrolling the area, as well as the increased use of improved self-defence measures by vessels transiting the high-risk area.
Be that as it may, these initiatives can only contain the problem by addressing its physical manifestation, rather than tackling its root causes: poverty, the lack of rule of law and the absence of a strong government, as well as the lack of alternative livelihoods. That is why ECSA wholeheartedly supports the recent decision to extend the mission’s mandate, as it is a step in the right direction, indicative of the EU’s willingness to adopt a holistic approach on this thorny issue.
“We much appreciate the decision of the Council to prolong the Atalanta mission for another two years. We applaud the move to increase the scope of the mission’s mandate in order to assist other EU capacity-building missions in Somalia and the neighbouring area” commented Patrick Verhoeven, ECSA Secretary General. “Short term gains, while positive, should not take our focus away from the essence of the problem. A long lasting solution to piracy off the coast of Somalia can only be found ashore. We are convinced that Atalanta will successfully fulfil its duties as it has done throughout the years and express our gratitude to the men and women serving under the EU flag to secure this vital maritime trade artery” he added.