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Combating piracy yet more effectively

Germany will thus remain part of the EU-led Operation Atalanta to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. German troops are now also authorized to take action against the pirates’ logistical bases on the shore. This was decided by the Bundestag on 10 May.

Foreign Minister Westerwelle said in his statement in the Bundestag: “Pirates are still a threat to freedom of navigation and impede the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia, which is vital to the survival of millions of starving people. Criminals are still earning millions by capturing ships and taking hostages.” He noted that the German Government therefore did not only consider it an international right, but also a “humanitarian duty to fight piracy robustly and courageously and to protect our own German seafarers”.

The Federal Cabinet had decided to amend the terms of the Atalanta mandate at a meeting on 18 April 2012. But it was the German Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, that had the final say. The operation, which was launched in 2008, aims to secure shipping carrying humanitarian aid, to provide effective protection against pirates and to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. International efforts so far have produced results: the pirates’ success rates fell markedly in 2011.

Tackling piracy on the coast too

On the fregate 'Bayern'

On the fregate 'Bayern'
© picture-alliance/ZB

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On the fregate 'Bayern'

On the fregate 'Bayern'

On the fregate 'Bayern'

Now that the Bundestag has approved the extension of the mandate, the German forces will be able to tackle the pirates’ logistics on the immediate shore, within a zone two kilometres from the coast. The goal is to combat piracy even more effectively. The extension will allow the armed forces to destroy clearly identified pirate logistics (e.g. weapons, boats) not only on the sea, but also on the beach. Westerwelle stressed: “Making it as difficult as possible for the pirates to resort to the use of arms and violence is the right thing to do.”

There is no intention of deploying ground troops, other than to help Atalanta forces in trouble. “Rescue missions will be allowed as a matter of course,” Minister Westerwelle assured the Bundestag, referring to them as an “axiom of self-defence”. The maximum number of German soldiers who may be deployed on the mission was left unchanged at 1400.

Joint action with European partners

Before the vote, Foreign Minister Westerwelle had stressed that fighting piracy was a common European concern and that it was therefore natural to act together with our European partners. It was, the Minister said, particularly important for Germany, as a major trading nation, to protect merchant shipping and seamen. The EU Foreign Affairs Council decided to extend Operation Atalanta on 23 March 2012.

Blocking the pirates’ finances

In the Bundestag, Westerwelle underscored that Atalanta was “part of our comprehensive policy on Somalia”, and noted that Germany was providing humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of the people, as well as promoting the constitutional process and the establishment of rule-of-law structures in the country, and supporting the creation of a secure environment, for example by training policemen and the Somali armed forces.

Further measures that he mentioned included Germany’s provision of financial support for the African Union Mission in Somalia and its involvement in developing a system of regional coast guards. He reported that efforts were increasingly being focused on the pirates’ money and stopping cash flows. “When combating piracy, we have to stop the pirates’ from using force, but we also have to tackle the causes and ensure that their revenue from ransoms dries up,” Westerwelle said.

Together with partners from Europe and the rest of the world, Germany has been participating without interruption in the EU-led Operation Atalanta off the Horn of Africa since December 2008. The basis for German involvement is a mandate from the United Nations Security Council and a related decision by the EU Council. The Bundestag first approved the mission on 19 December 2008.


Last updated 10.05.2012