EU anti-piracy mission at risk of expulsion from Somalia
The EU’s flagship naval operation risks losing authorization to pursue pirates in Somali waters due to local politics.
The Somali federal government in December agreed to extend a UN mandate for the EU operation, called Atalanta, for just three months.
And its future intentions are “rather ambivalent” and “to be questioned”, according to an internal journal of the EU’s external service, dated January 5 and consulted by EUobserver.
The new “posture vis-Ã -vis the international presence [is] … to see in the context of [Somalia’s] ongoing electoral process, in particular by increasing electoral tensions and fragmentation, “the EU said.
And as Somalia braces for presidential elections “likely to take place in June,” its powers that be want to prove a point.
They want the EU or other “future partners to strengthen [the] Somali National Coast Guard and Navy “instead of monitoring the region.
They also want Atalanta to focus more on illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste, amid “unsettling reports that the operation [Atalanta] “Protects illegal fishing vessels,” “said the EU’s external service.
And they want the text of any new UN resolution “to significantly reduce language seen as negative towards Somalia.”
If the current UN resolution expires in March, then “Atalanta will no longer have a legal basis to fight armed robberies in Somali territorial waters or on its territory, and (…) to fight the piracy off the Somali coast, âthe EU noted. .
The EU mission could still fight pirates on the “high seas” and could still perform “secondary tasks”, she said.
These include protecting food aid ships, enforcing a UN arms embargo against Somalia, prosecuting drug traffickers, illegal fishing boats and illegal charcoal traders. .
But “the ability (…) to pursue pirates and armed robbers in Somali territorial waters remains indeed important for an effective anti-piracy mission. The ability to act on land would be even better”, the EU’s foreign service said.
The EU’s foreign service planned to “step up the pressure” on Somalia to get, at least, another nine-month extension.
It also aimed to use other EU military aid to the Somali armed forces “as political leverage to the extent possible”.
EU navies have been monitoring the Horn of Africa for 14 years.
And they are looking to expand their presence, with pending agreements on Atalanta’s anti-piracy operations also in Djibouti, Mauritius and Seychelles waters, the EU’s internal document said.
The developments come against a backdrop of increased instability in the region caused by Ethiopia’s civil war.
They also come against a backdrop of heightened geopolitical tensions, as China and Africa compete with the EU’s interests in Africa.
Meanwhile, Somalia’s official position was that “piracy no longer poses a significant threat to regional peace and security,” the EU report notes.
But the EU’s concern over Atalanta’s potential expulsion from the country’s troubled waters indicated that was far from true.