Turning the Tide on Piracy

The House of Lords EU Committee for External Affairs has today praised the success of Operation Atalanta in curbing piracy off the Somali coast. However, they say that the operation must be extended beyond its current end date of December 2014 if it is to make a lasting difference in combating the threat.

Turning the Tide on Piracy, Building Somalia’s Future:
Follow-up report on the EU’s Operation Atalanta and beyond


Operation Atalanta is the EU’s first naval operation. It was launched in 2008
under UK leadership, with the purpose of protecting World Food Programme
ships delivering aid to Somalia, and preventing and combating piracy off the
Somali coast. The Committee first reported on Atalanta in April 2010, when we
outlined a number of concerns about the mission and the situation in Somalia.
Since then two further EU missions have been launched, one, based in Uganda, to
train Somali security forces, (EUTM Somalia), and one to support regional
maritime capacity-building in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean states
(EUCAP Nestor).

In this report we welcome the progress made in reducing the number of pirated
ships as a result of efforts by the international naval task forces, including Atalanta,
and by the shipping industry, which has increasingly used ship protection
measures. In June 2012 eight pirated vessels and 215 hostages were held,
compared with 23 vessels and 501 hostages in June the previous year. We consider
that Operation Atalanta must be continued up to and beyond the expiry of its
current mandate in December 2014 in order to avoid an upsurge in pirate activity.
We welcome the increased involvement of Somalia’s neighbours, led by the
Seychelles, in conducting piracy trials, though we have doubts about the transfer
of sentenced pirates back to Somalia. We also have concerns about the problems
created for the countries involved by the higher standards of prisons for pirates
than for their other prisoners. We believe that some measure of rehabilitation
should be established, especially for younger pirates, though we recognise that
imprisonment needs to be a real deterrent.

We note with satisfaction the extent of practical international cooperation in
countering piracy, including by China, and the cooperation with regional
organisations such as the African Union. We believe, however, that the Gulf States
should make a greater effort to assist in solving the problems of piracy and

We concluded in our previous report that piracy would not be ended until the root
causes of the problems in Somalia were successfully tackled. Since that report, the
EU has developed its activity by formulating a Strategy for the Horn of Africa and
appointing a Special Representative for the area, as well as launching EUTM
Somalia and EUCAP Nestor. We believe that the missions should be taken
forward pro-actively and that the EU’s development aid should focus on providing
alternative livelihoods for the Somali people. These missions must continue until
the incentives for piracy are removed and the coastal states of the region are able
to police their own coastlines. Taken together, we welcome these developments as
assisting the necessary comprehensive solution to Somalia’s problems under the
EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Download full report here

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