The Council of the European Union today confirmed its intention to extend its EU Naval Force’s (EUNAVFOR) counter-piracy mission, Operation ATALANTA, off the Somali coast until at least December 2014. At the same time, the Council also announced that it is extending its area of operations to “include Somalia’s coastal territory and internal waters”, indicating the persuit of pirates by EUNAVFOR for the first time on land, or at least on the beach.
A report yesterday by the AFP first indicated EUNAVFOR’s intentions saying:
The European Union will probably approve plans on Friday to strike Somali pirate equipment on beaches, widening the scope of its naval operations four years into a mission to protect shipping.
Germany had voiced reservations about plans to allow EU warships and helicopters to fire at trucks, supplies, boats and fuel stowed on the coast of Somalia, but a minister indicated on Thursday that Berlin would now back the plans.
“Military officers say they want to render harmless the ships on the beach that could be used. This was a convincing argument,” German deputy defence minister Christian Schmidt said after a meeting of EU defence chiefs in Brussels.
EU officials have stressed that the new mandate would not call for the deployment of troops on the ground in Somalia.
“We made clear that this should be limited actions against assets on the edge of the beach. Piracy must be fought at sea,” Schmidt said.
The Council of the European Union says that today’s decision will enable Operation Atalanta Forces to work directly with the Transitional Federal Government and other Somali entities to support their fight against piracy in the coastal areas, and adding that in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Somali government has notified the UN Secretary General of its acceptance of the EU’s offer for this new collaboration.
“The extension of the mandate until the end of 2014 confirms the EU’s commitment to fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa, said Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, who is the Operational Commander of the EU Naval Force, speaking about the extension of the mandate and area of operations. “Piracy has caused so much misery to the Somali people and to the crews of ships transiting the area and it is right that we continue to move forward in our efforts”.
In related news, the NATO Shipping Centre also announced earlier this week its intentions to extend its counter-piracy operations in East Africa, formally called Ocean Shield, also until 2014.