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The Colombian navy as reinforcements in the Indian Ocean?

(BRUSSELS2 – exclusive) The European anti-piracy operation (EUNAVFOR Atalanta) could soon welcome a frigate from a country which has little experience of spawning in Somali or European waters: Colombia. This is not a joke or an April Fool's joke in advance. Bogota has really made Europeans aware of its interest in being present alongside them in the Indian Ocean. A contribution strongly supported by Madrid.

A Latin American first

The Colombian fleet would thus provide a frigate and a light intervention ship. Which would certainly be a first both in terms of European collaboration with this Latin American country and in the fight against pirates. Last November, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón authorized the Navy command to examine the feasibility of deploying an “Almirante Padilla” class frigate. There still remains an important formality to complete: sign a framework agreement with the European Union for this participation, and to obtain an internal (parliamentary) agreement for this. We must act quickly because the possible employment window – due to the availability of the frigate concerned – is between now and the summer.

South Korea too?

Another frigate could quickly join the anti-piracy operation, this time coming from a country which is regularly involved in operations in the region: South Korea. But the Korean ships were more part of the operation carried out under American initiative (CTF 151). Participation in a European mission would also be a first for the Koreans.

An act of naval diplomacy

This commitment from third countries is not new: Norway and Ukraine (a frigate); New Zealand (patrol aircraft) have already contributed to the European operation off the coast of Somalia. But with Colombia or South Korea, we are reaching more “exotic” collaborations at a time when the threat of Somali piracy has largely diminished compared to the peaks observed in 2010-2012. Operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta thus becomes a significant instrument of European naval diplomacy. This foreign involvement is also not negligible on an operational level at a time when European commitments tend to be more limited due to other areas of intervention. France in particular has largely reduced its commitment to the European operation, just as the United Kingdom has almost ceased its participation in the sister operation led by NATO (Ocean Shield).

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

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).

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