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“We are going to put pressure on the pirates”, Rear-Admiral Labonne

Photo credit: Council of the EU

(B2) Deputy to the Admiral commanding the French naval action force, Rear-Admiral Labonne will be on the other side of the Channel more often over the next six months than in Brest, his usual base. He was, in fact, appointed second in command alongside British Vice-Admiral Philip Jones, at the head of the military operation against pirates in the Gulf of Aden (EU NAVFOR or “Atalanta”), whose Headquarter is in Northwood, near London.

Second ? “You know it’s like being in a boat. It’s like being in a boat – explains Jean-Pierre Labonne. “ He is the Pasha. But we are interchangeable. We work on the same files all the time. And I can relay it if necessary. A necessity because the Atalanta operation operates 24 hours a day, 24 days a week and the action of the pirates requires constant vigilance.

The pirates? « They (the pirates) are very strong. It's quite stunning. explains the admiral. " They are trained, determined people who constantly improve their mode of action. True sailors who are fearless. “So you have to be” very responsive, constantly adapting, making the most of all the resources we have. Boats, planes, helicopters… “Certainly with six boats, on average, over such a vast area, “Atalanta” is not going to “ not miraculously solve piracy in a few days. But we gon' put the pressure on, disrupt 'em, act as a deterrent is persuaded the admiral.

The mission “is exciting”. « It is the first naval operation of the European Union. And this “first time” aspect is exciting commented J.-P. Labonne, his eyes sparkling. In addition, as “we feel a real European, political and European will to move forward together, that makes things easier ". Integration in Northwood among the British was very rapid. " We all speak English. And in the Navy we are already used to working together. Labonne is not the only Frenchman among the 90 people at headquarters. He has, moreover, taken away several officers from Brest ».


(a first version of this article appeared in Ouest-France)

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).