Blog AnalysisMissions Operationsmaritime piracy

Three candidates for an HQ. Rota, Rome, Paris… Who will take over from Northwood in 2019?

(B2) While the United Kingdom tries to safeguard its irreplaceable role in its defense on the European market, negotiations are going well behind the scenes to offer an alternative to the British headquarters (HQ) of the anti-piracy operation of the EU, located in Northwood, near London, by 2019. Three candidates are in the running... and one seems the favorite, in our opinion.

Brexit, which should take place in 2019, requires finding a new headquarters for this operation which could be extended, in one way or another, after the current mandate, ending in December 2018.

Rota (Spain): the favorite

The Spanish would be candidates to take over the role assigned to the British as framework nation and command of the anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia. Madrid thus displayed its “ availability » in an official letter addressed to Federica Mogherini last December, to make available her headquarters in Rota, the main base of the Spanish Armada (1). Of course, Spain does not have an HQ approved by the European Union. But that doesn't seem not be a blocking question », According to a military expert consulted by B2. In fact, the Milex-18 exercise, organized by the European Union, in March, should be an opportunity to certify that the fleet headquarters is ready to do so.

Spain has a certain legitimacy in this proposal. It first played a leading role in the establishment of Operation Atalanta (at a time when few countries really believed in it, read: France and Spain decided to act on maritime piracy). She has assisted in the operation with ships on numerous occasions. It is today the only nation to provide operational resources to the mission: a ship and a maritime patrol aircraft (read: Latvian chemical tanker attacked by pirates off Somalia). If the commander of the operation is the British Charlie Stickland, the number 2 is Spanish, Rear-Admiral Alfonso Pérez de Nanclares y Pérez de Acevedo. Finally, for Madrid, the reputation of its navy is a priority, reaffirmed, as the recent investment plan proves (After ten years of food shortage, Spain wants to reinvest in its army).

Spanish involvement in Operation Atalanta (in 2017)

Rome: the natural candidate

Italy may also be a candidate. For it, it has the advantage of already having a headquarters, that of Rome, already activated and operational, since it serves as HQ for the European operation in the Mediterranean to fight against trafficking. In some ways, commanding a second operation from the same headquarters would have minimal 'cost' in terms of deployable personnel. It would allow the Italians to become a nerve center for all EU maritime operations.

Paris: the outsider

France has no longer activated its Mont-Valérien headquarters for the European Union since 2008 and the EUFOR operation in Chad. But it can quickly gain momentum. This would also mean that France returns as a framework nation for the maritime operation. The idea that was entertained for a while seems to have been put aside today, according to our information. France would support Spain, we are told.

NB: three other HQs exist at European level: Potsdam in Germany and Larrissa in Greece, as well as Brussels (which is currently only activated for EU military training missions). None of them has been mentioned, according to our information, to command the maritime operation.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, with Leonor Hubaut)

(1) The Armada is more than 20.000 soldiers. And of the 10.800 “Infantes de marineria”, 6000 are in Rota as indicated in the From Cadiz. A military base that also houses the US Navy in the Mediterranean.

(photo credit: Spanish Armada)

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).