Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle before the German Bundestag on the continued participation of German armed forces in the EU-led Operation Atalanta

25.04.2013 - Speech

verbatim report of proceedings –

Fellow Members,

Atalanta is a successful mission. Since its launch, over 150 shipments commissioned by the World Food Programme have been safely seen to their ports of destination in Somalia. A total of one million tonnes of food and relief supplies were able to reach the country. That is the real reason why we launched this mission. We want to help people.

The men and women of the Bundeswehr also deserve thanks for their very successful work.

When we debated over Atalanta here a year ago, seven ships and over 200 hostages were in the hands of pirates. Today they have only two ships and 60 hostages. It has been almost a year since the last hijacking of a ship. The number of attempted hijackings is clearly on the decline. That does not mean that all is well. When positive developments occur, however, we should step back for a minute and consider what has happened. In doing so, we see that the reservations expressed last year over adjustments to the Atalanta mandate evidently have not been justified by events. In other words, I would ask the opposition, which at the time did not vote in favour of the mandate because of doubts about expanding it, to put their support behind the mandate today. The reservations you voiced were obviously not accurate.

It is a good occasion for the German Bundestag to return to a unified position.

With German support the efforts of the European Union were successful. Extending the mandate so that the European Union or rather our soldiers can destroy pirate weapons and equipment onshore was the subject of great controversy last time. Today we can see that the mandate extension was successful. I think that this would be a good occasion not to repeat last year’s refusal of support.

Of course, the military mission off the Horn of Africa is part of an overall political approach to Somalia. We have made progress in pursuing those behind the pirates and exposing their financing. The German Government has worked to see this topic receive significantly more attention at the international level. We have created new structures and improved cooperation with police authorities. That increases the pressure on those backing the pirates. We must not forget that it is not enough to fight the pirates by preventing them from committing illegal acts.

It is also important to disrupt the bloody work of those behind those acts. On this front, too, we have made progress through our political efforts.

The security situation in and around Mogadishu and in parts of south and central Somalia has improved significantly. AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, has had good success in pushing back al Shabab militia groups. However, recent attacks have also shown that the situation is still fragile. That means that it is right and necessary for us to remain involved, by protecting shipping routes, for example. It is right and necessary for us, as a trading nation, to defend shipping lanes and to continue to protect our citizens as well as the citizens of our partners.

There has also been progress in rebuilding state structures in Somalia. Since September, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been Somalia’s new President, and since November there has been a government with parliamentary approval. On 18 September of last year, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution noting the completion of the transitional period. In four years there is to be a general election. I also have the honour of informing you that a German ambassador was recently accredited by Somalia’s government, so that Germany is again represented there after more than twenty years without formal representation. That, too, is a sign that the situation in Somalia is becoming normal, although, I repeat, the situation is still fragile.

So not everything is good in Somalia. There is still much to do before we can talk about a stable state in Somalia, but we are on the right track. We want to continue resolutely down the path we have chosen: with political support, with development cooperation, also with humanitarian aid where necessary and not least with our participation in the EU-led Operation Atalanta.

In terms of international law, the mission continues to be based on the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, the conclusions of the Council of the European Union and the approval of Somalia’s government.

On behalf of the Federal Government, the Federal Minister of Defence and I request that the mandate be extended without amendments to its content. The decision we made last year was a sound one. It brought success. This year we should continue down that path.

Thank you very much.

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