Effectively combating piracy

17.05.2013 - Article

The Bundestag has extended the deployment of Bundeswehr troops within the context of the EU’s counter piracy operation ATALANTA. The operation is embedded in a comprehensive strategy for Somalia’s reconstruction.

On 16 May the German Bundestag voted to re extend the deployment of Bundeswehr troops in counter piracy operations with a majority of 310 in favour (206 against and 61 abstentions). Up to 1400 Bundeswehr service personnel may be deployed in the context of the EU led operation ATALANTA until 31 May at the latest. During the debate on 25 April Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle described the improvements in the security situation which the operation achieved in the last year. He said that progress had also been made in pursuing the instigators and exposing their finances.

Frigate “Schleswig-Holstein” in Djibouti
Frigate “Schleswig-Holstein” in Djibouti© Bundeswehr

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. ATALANTA also guarantees logistic supplies for the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which is intended to further stabilize the country. The international efforts to date have had an impact: the number of piracy incidents has now fallen considerably; and the World Food Programme was able to deliver more than a million tonnes of food and other relief goods to Somalia. However, Somalia is not yet able to combat the piracy off its coast on its own.

Germany’s participation

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

On 23 March 2012, the Council of the European Union therefore decided to extend ATALANTA until 12 December 2014. Germany has been involved in the operation since the end of 2008 with Bundeswehr troops and at least one frigate or task force support vessel. This support remains necessary. Around 310 Germans are currently in the area aboard the frigate “Augsburg”. Germany’s contribution also includes a maritime patrol aircraft.

The deployment area is the Somali coastal areas and internal waters as well as the waters off the coast of Somalia and neighbouring countries. It also includes the airspace over these areas. German troops are allowed a maximum range of 2 000 metres to take action against the pirates’ logistics bases on the shore. However, they are not deployed for this purpose on the ground.

In the Bundestag debate on 25 April concerning the continuation of the mission, Foreign Minister Westerwelle thanked the service personnel involved for their successful deployment to date. He stressed that the extension of the mandate a year ago to enable the destruction of the pirates’ weapons and equipment onshore had proved to be successful.

Networked approach

The German Government and its partners in the EU are pursuing a networked approach to their engagement in Somalia. In 2011, the EU outlined its numerous military and civilian activities as well as the existing challenges in a Strategic Framework for the Horn of Africa. It includes elements such as ATALANTA, the EU led training mission for Somali soldiers (EUTM Somalia) in Uganda and the EUCAP NESTOR mission through which the EU is assisting states in the Horn of Africa to build up capacities to control their coastal areas.

Many Somalis need help
Many Somalis need help© UN Photo

In addition, extensive humanitarian aid has been provided. In Somalia, more than one million people are categorized as internally displaced, while many others also need emergency aid. In 2011 and 2012, the German Government made available a total of 35 million euros. Further assistance is planned. The German Government has used this funding to finance food aid, basic medical care in refugee camps and drinking water supplies. UN humanitarian supplies are protected by ATALANTA. Furthermore, Germany is funding a project for humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance in the country.

Taking action against those behind piracy

Westerwelle stressed in his Bundestag speech that the military deployment was embedded in an overall political strategy for Somalia. At the instigation of the German Government in particular, the task now was to “disrupt the bloody work of those behind piracy”. Progress had been made in this as well as in exposing the financial structures behind piracy.

Progress in building state structures

In this connection, the Foreign Minister pointed out the progress which had been made in reconstructing state structures in a country which was long considered to be a failed state. Since last September, the country had had a new President and since November there had been a government which had parliamentary approval. After a break of more than 20 years, Germany is now once again represented by an Ambassador accredited to the government. Westerwelle stated that not everything is good in Somalia but that the country was on the right path.

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