On 18 May 2017 the German Bundestag extended the mandate for the Bundeswehr’s participation in the anti‑piracy mission in the Horn of Africa. Up to 600 Bundeswehr service personnel may be deployed in the context of the EU‑led operation Atalanta (EU NAVFOR Somalia) until 31 May 2018 at the latest.
The main task of Operation Atalanta, which commenced in 2008, is to protect vessels being used by the UN World Food Programme for the transportation of humanitarian aid to and from Somalia (WFP) and to prevent piracy off the coast of Somalia. Since its launch, the operation has been quite a success: with protection from Atalanta, the WFP has been able to transport over four million tonnes of foodstuffs safely to Somalia, and the number of pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa has fallen substantially over the past few years.
The priority for the future will be to ensure that the countries of the region can guarantee the safety of shipping after the EU‑led operation comes to an end. Over recent years, the Federal Government has already started to prepare “the beginning of the end” by continuously reducing the maximum number of German soldiers envisaged for deployment in the mission. While up to 1200 soldiers could be deployed in 2014, the figure had halved by 2016.
However, it is too early to say that the crisis is over. In the transitional phase of Atalanta in the years ahead, the Federal Government’s main concern is to ensure that the operation’s success is maintained. So Foreign Minister Gabriel was pleased that the German Bundestag voted by a large majority to continue German participation in Atalanta.
Atalanta is a success story. It is vital to ensure that supplies can come in safely by sea, particularly now, when the people are hit by famine.
The challenges in Somalia were huge, but the progress made in recent years was tangible, the Minister said after his visit in May 2017. This was the first visit to Somalia by a German Foreign Minister. The new Government in Mogadishu was determined to tackle these enormous challenges and deserved international support, Gabriel added, before reaffirming: “Germany will not only provide help in the current famine, but will also further expand its long-term support.”
The key element for sustainable success is stabilisation in Somalia. This includes building up state structures and enhancing the security authorities’ capabilities on land and sea.
Germany is pursuing a comprehensive approach in Somalia, both at national level and with its international partners, combining instruments of foreign, security and development policy. In addition, the Federal Foreign Office is providing substantial humanitarian assistance to help tackle the famine in the Horn of Africa.
Within the framework of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy, the major pillars of this comprehensive concept, besides Atalanta, are a civilian EU‑led mission (EUCAP Somalia) to develop maritime capabilities and EUTM Somalia, a training and advisory mission for the Somali armed forces.
Nineteen EU member states are currently involved in Atalanta, along with three EU partner countries – Serbia, Montenegro and Djibouti. Germany has supported Atalanta from the outset by providing ships and/or reconnaissance aircraft as well as staff members.