Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle speaking in the German Bundestag about ATALANTA

16.12.2009 - Speech

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen,


A year ago, the Bundestag issued a mandate for the German Navy to engage in the EU operation ATALANTA. Since then, the German Navy has been active in the European operation in substantial numbers. We Germans, our Bundeswehr, have carried out the mandate. The German Government believes the mission performed by European and German maritime forces is sensible. In the short term it is the only way to protect international shipping from piracy. That is why the Federal Government asks the German Bundestag to approve a continuation of the essentially unchanged ATALANTA mandate.

Piracy poses a serious threat to our merchant ships. But at the same time it poses a serious threat to humanitarian aid for Somalia. Here we can see once more: Anyone who is fundamentally against the deployment of soldiers is also ensuring that humanitarian aid to benefit the hungry whom we need to protect is rendered impossible.

This is particularly important in Somalia.

In the first year of the mission, all ships chartered by the World Food Programme carrying aid for Somalia arrived safely in the Somali ports. This is a remarkable success. That is why before I go any further I would like, perhaps also on behalf of everyone here, to express our sincere thanks to the men and women from the Bundeswehr who made this possible at great personal sacrifice.

Many attacks on merchant ships have been averted. I would like to point out to those who only have eyes for the 190 incidents that some 20,000 ships sail in the region in any given year. We know we do not just have the right but in fact the duty to protect our ships and our citizens from piracy.

What is more we have detained pirates. ATALANTA transferred them to the authorities for criminal prosecution. Kenya has shouldered responsibility here and the Seychelles has also declared its readiness. Cooperation with states in the region is important if the fight against piracy is to be successful. Impunity does nothing to deter potential pirates.

There can be no doubt that we also need to talk about the causes. Similarly, there are also civilian tasks to be performed. But the line that piracy emerged because of overfishing is, with all due respect, simply wrong. In fact, the legal vacuum that was Somalia simply left too much scope for organized crime. Someone who can no longer earn a living from fishing does not just decide to become a murdering pirate. We have to be clear on this. That is twisting the facts. Germany and Europe are feeling the immediate effects of the collapse of Somalia. The German media sometimes report on the attacks if they are particularly sad and dramatic. On 3 December, for example, there was a dreadful attack with many fatalities, including several government ministers.

We want to help rebuild the state. The Somali transitional government is recognized by the international community and assisted in its efforts to build peace. Despite what others have said, that is why the mandate refers to this. The government is victim to ongoing attacks by Islamist extremists. That is why nation-building and development are tasks in our shared interest which we want to support for our own security but also to improve the situation on the ground.

That is why the European Union, together with African partners, is planning to train Somali soldiers in Uganda. We also remain committed at the political level, for example as a member of the Somalia Contact Group. We also support the drawing up of a new Somali constitution which should and must reflect the legitimate interests of all parties. ATALANTA is therefore firmly rooted in a political blueprint for Somalia. Anyone suggesting it is merely a military solution the German Government is pursuing is wrong. We know that the two go hand in hand.

I would like to clearly underscore that we are talking about our protection, the protection of our ships and trade routes but also about protecting the people in Somalia and guaranteeing that humanitarian aid can get to them. We believe this mandate is not just politically appropriate but also right in the moral and ethic sense and I hope the Bundestag will support the motion of the Government with a large majority.

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