maritime piracy

EU NAVCO, the new military naval coordination operation Somalia

(B2) Code name : EU NAVCO. That's it. The situation in Somalia and off its coast is of “serious” concern to the 27 Foreign Ministers of the European Union. They therefore approved, on September 15, the establishment of a military “coordination cell”, within the General Staff of the European Union, called “EU NAVCO” (read the conclusions).

Mission: “to support the surveillance and protection actions carried out by certain Member States off the coast of Somalia”. This within the framework of resolutions 1814 and 1816 of the United Nations Security Council which organize the fight against piracy, protection of ships chartered by the World Food Program (WFP).

Workforce : ordered by a Spanish ship captain, it will include three other people: a French frigate captain (already present), a Cypriot officer (who arrives at the end of the month) and a non-commissioned officer who is to be appointed.

Cost : 15 euros (the lowest cost of a European operation). Each State in fact covers the salaries of its staff. The EU General Staff is already installed. These are only marginal costs.

And now: the joint action which serves as the legal basis for the action is expected to be approved by written procedure on September 19. But above all the 27 (or rather the 26 – Denmark does not normally take part in the vote when it comes to a military operation) “approved a strategic military option relating to a possible military naval operation of the European Union. ” And called for planning work to “progress rapidly”.

What military options? Questioned by journalists, Bernard Kouchner, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, who chaired the Council, was rather vague, seeming to drown the point.. “There is no question of having a squadron there or attacking the pirates.” he explained. And to add “It is not easy to protect all fishing areas. The area to be covered is very large, it does not only cover Somalia”. And the pirates are “cunning, well organized, with a central boat and fast boats that swoop down on their prey".

Regretting having to contradict our valiant Minister of Foreign Affairs who apparently had other things to do than take care of a few fishermen struggling with pirates in the Indian Ocean, we can say that indeed:

1° A military option is being studied, or rather three, which are part of the “strategic military options” (see how is a planning). 1st option = “deter” and stop the pirates; 2nd option = protect merchant ships and other boats by providing them with an escort; 3rd option = option 1 + option 2. It is this third option which would be favored by Member States.

2° The Spanish captain and his French counterpart are already hard at work at the General Staff in Brussels. Around ten Member States support an operation and are ready to contribute boats (France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands) and/or men (Cyprus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Sweden, Italy, Estonia, etc.).

3° Several experts from the Council of the EU are leaving for Djibouti, in order to study – with the French who have a permanent base there – the practical arrangements for establishing a force headquarters (FHQ) as well as the logistical arrangements and to assess the cost.

4° As for the command headquarters, the OHQ, the Europeans are divided. Some Member States would like to use that of the EU General Staff, in Brussels, much more practical, the political and budgetary authority being closer, this “makes a lot of things easier and saves a lot of travel” explains a European diplomat. You just have to see the difficulties that OHQ Chad has at Mont Valérien. The British would prefer it to be their Northwood OHQ which also serves as the naval headquarters for NATO. But without arousing wild enthusiasm for the moment.

The goal is to to do quickly. For legal reasons: the mandate of Resolution 1816 ends at the beginning of December; obtaining its renewal should not pose too much of a problem; you still have to justify having taken a step. For concrete reasons: the number of attacks, the equipment of pirates and their audacity continues to grow. At the end of September, Canadian protection of World Food Program (WFP) boats ceases. Who will replace them? No one has volunteered yet...


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).