Speech by Foreign Minister Westerwelle to the German Bundestag on the continuation of German participation in the ATALANTA mission in the Horn of Africa

24.11.2010 - Speech

Speech by Foreign Minister Westerwelle to the German Bundestag on the continuation of German participation in the ATALANTA mission in the Horn of Africa

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since Monday of this week, ten Somali nationals have been on trial in Hamburg accused of having hijacked a German ship off the coast of Somalia. This demonstrates very clearly how directly the problems in Somalia affect us in Germany.

To many of us, the Horn of Africa might seem to be a long way off in geographical terms, but the regular news reports are an indication that what’s going on there actually affects us as well. With the EU-led ATALANTA mission we are securing the supply of humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Somalia and protecting civilian shipping.

So let me emphasize once again, to make clear what interests we are pursuing, that the whole thing was started in order to enable humanitarian aid supplies to reach the ports of Africa.

The fact that it has been possible to prevent a new humanitarian disaster in Somalia in recent years testifies to the mission’s success.

ATALANTA benefits millions of people who desperately need this aid. Over 3.5 million Somalis are still dependent on humanitarian aid. This year alone ATALANTA has escorted over 30 World Food Programme ships safely into Somali ports. So anyone who wants to withdraw from this mission has to explain just exactly how he intends to ensure that this aid actually reaches the starving population. As there is no way you can do this, all of you in this House will, I believe, live up to your responsibility.

Over 90,000 tonnes of foodstuffs reached 1.8 million people.

That’s why this mission is so crucial.

We can be proud of these humanitarian achievements by the European Union, to which the German Navy has made a substantial contribution. I would like to thank all the parliamentary groups who support the Bundeswehr’s engagement. But my particular thanks go to the soldiers of the Bundeswehr for their commitment. It is a difficult mission, one which causes great hardship. May I ask you, Mr Parliamentary State Secretary, to convey our gratitude to our troops once again. I am certain that all of us here in the Bundestag know what an important job the men and women of the Bundeswehr are doing out there.

The mission’s second aim is to protect international shipping. A foreign policy which is committed to humanitarian values can and may, indeed must, keep its own interests in view as well.

Freedom of movement on the open seas is a shared interest of the international community. In this context we are acting under the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. That too is very important to remember: this is a mandate from the United Nations Security Council.


Ladies and gentlemen, the shipping companies can help to improve the security of the ships and especially of their crews. I am confident that the ship owners take their responsibilities seriously and that they are taking the necessary precautions. Thanks to the cooperation between the shipping companies and the security forces, the number of attacks and hijack attempts in the Gulf of Aden has fallen. But we have to remember that there are still hundreds of people in the hands of the pirates.

Moreover, the threat has taken on a new quality, because the pirates have now extended their range even as far as the Indian coast and the coast of Mozambique. In other words, the reach of the original operations area is no longer sufficient. It has therefore been extended, involving some remarkable logistics. The European Union has responded to the new situation and extended the ATALANTA operations area. That is why the Bundeswehr mandate too needs to be adapted to the new realities. The Federal Government asks this House to act accordingly.

International missions cannot sort out the repercussions of state failure by themselves. We need to seek the solution right where the problem has its roots – in Somalia itself. The fight against piracy will be won not on the high seas, but on land. And so it is right that we supplement our humanitarian aid for Somalia with support for political reconstruction. It is, quite simply, wrong to claim that we are only demonstrating military commitment and that we don’t realize we have to work actively on land too to tackle the causes of the problem. That’s exactly what we’re doing.

At the Africa-EU Summit in Tripoli next Tuesday, we will continue to work towards a common order, a common perspective. But of course that’s not enough on its own. It is a question of continuing the EU missions to train Somali security forces. We’re doing that too. It is a question of implementing international projects to support the development of the judicial systems. That’s another of our priorities. But it is also a question of our recognizing this: lawless areas breed instability and violence. That’s why we must continue to take this networked approach. We ask for support for this important mandate.

Thank you for your attention.

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