Documents considered by the Committee on 15 September 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

22   ESDP: Piracy off the coast of Somalia


Council Decision amending Joint Action 2008/851/CFSP on a European Union operation to contribute to the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast

Legal baseArticles 28 and 43 (2) EU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 23 July 2010
Previous Committee ReportsNone; but see (31174) 16450/09: HC 5-iii (2009-10), chapter 19 (9 December 2009); (30982) —: HC 19- xxvii (2008-09), chapter 29 (14 October 2009); also see (30724) — and (30728)—: HC 19 xxiii (2008-09), chapter 9 (8 July 2009) and (30341) —, (30348) — and (30349) —: HC 19-iv (2008-09) chapter 17 (21 January 2009); (30400) 13989/08: HC 16-xxxvi (2007-08), chapter 17 (26 November 2008) and HC 16-xxxii (2007-08), chapter 10 (22 October 2008); and (29953)—: HC16-xxx (2007-08), chapter 19 (8 October 2008)
Discussed in CouncilTo be determined
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


22.1  In response to growing international concern over the problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution (UNSCR) 1816 (2008) in June which encouraged "States interested in the use of commercial maritime routes off the coast of Somalia, to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea". Then, on 7 October 2008, the Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 1838, which was initiated by France and co-sponsored by 19 countries (Belgium, Croatia, the US, UK, Italy, Panama, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Korea and Singapore).

22.2  The previous Committee's reports set out the history of the European Union's endeavours to address this problem, leading to the creation of the first ESDP naval operation, Operation Atalanta, and subsequent developments.[99]

22.3  These include, in January 2009, an Explanatory Memorandum from the then Minister for Europe, giving "an overview on decisions made to facilitate the progress of Operation Atalanta" and incorporating a Joint Action launching the operation and two Council Decisions on Status of Force Agreements with both the Somali Republic and Djibouti.

22.4   Subsequent reports have covered:

—  an exchange of letters between the EU and Kenya that give the right to enter and freedom of movement within the territory (including territorial waters and airspace) of Kenya "strictly limited to the necessities of the operation";

—  a further EU-Kenya agreement on the handover of pirates for trial;

—  a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Seychelles, allowing the EU to freely enter territory (including territorial waters and airspace) of the Republic of the Seychelles and the right to detain pirates in the Republic of the Seychelles waters;

—  an agreement to allow the transfer of persons detained by EUNAVFOR in connection with armed robbery and associated seized property to the Seychelles for the purpose of investigation and prosecution;

—  information on attempted and successful attacks with regard to the year to 9 June 2009, noting that the ratio of successful attacks in the Gulf of Aden had reduced from 1 in 3 at the end of 2008 to about 1 in 8 for most of the year to date and 1 in 11 in May, but also that these international effort may have had effect of pushing pirates to operation further South East including in Seychelles waters;

—  a new piracy resolution (UNSCR 1851) adopted by the Security Council on 16 December 2008, which called for the establishment of an International Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), and gave details of the work upon which the CGPCS had embarked;

—  agreement in May that, having reached Initial Operation Capacity (IOC) on 13 December 2008 and being intended to last until 13 December 2009, Operation Atalanta should be extended for a further 12 months;

—  the previous Minister for Europe's views on the achievements, failings and lessons learned so far in the mission's first year, which said that a more detailed review would be undertaken at the end of ATALANTA's first year in December 2009;

—  action the Government and the EU had taken during the year of operation to address the root causes of the immediate problem;

—  a Council Decision extending Operation Atalanta until 13 December 2010 and amendments to the existing Joint Action to include:

  • monitoring of fishing activities off the coast in Somalia;
  • the need for Operation Atalanta to liaise and cooperate with international bodies working in the region;
  • assisting the Somali authorities by sharing information on fishing activities;
  • a Council Decision establishing an EU Training Mission for Somalia, to provide (in Uganda) training for Somali security forces.[100]

The Council Decision

22.5  The 14 June 2010 Foreign Affairs Council agreed to extend the Area of Operations for Operation Atalanta. The new Area of Operations will extend to longitude 65° East and latitude 15° South. Annex A to the Minister for Europe's (David Lidington) Explanatory Memorandum of 23 July 2010 shows both the current and proposed Areas of Operation.

22.6  The Minister explains that:

—  Operation Atalanta's success in reducing the number of successful pirate attacks in the critical Gulf of Aden trade artery has resulted in some displacement of pirate activity into the wider Somali Basin and Indian Ocean;

—  attacks have taken place as far as 1300 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia;

—  in order to best address and target the increasing area of pirate activity, EU Member States agreed that a larger Area of Operations is needed;

—  the new Area of Operations will provide EU Naval Forces (EUNAVFOR) with the command and control authority to operate in the larger area only if there is an attack or intelligence of pirate activity there;

—  it will also allow for the application of current Rules of Engagement in the larger area;

—  it does not mean that EUNAVFOR will increase its patrolling area, or require extra forces in order to cover the larger Area of Operations.

The Government's view

22.7  The Minister says that, although pirate attacks continue to plague merchant shipping, the actual number of successful attacks has reduced significantly, especially in the critical Gulf of Aden transit artery. The international community has, he say, shown unity and resolve in tackling piracy, the EU mission having ensured safe passage of over 300,000 tonnes of food aid to Somalia.

22.8  He continues as follows:

"However the threat of piracy has not diminished and it continues to pose a threat to international shipping. Whilst pirate activity in the Gulf of Aden has been dramatically reduced, we have seen an increase in pirate attacks in the much broader Somali basin.

"In light of the increasing area of pirate activity and the continued level of pirate attacks, Ministers agreed at the Foreign Affairs Council on 14 June 2010, to support the Operation Commander's recommendation that Operation Atalanta's mandate be extended by a further two years until December 2012. This extension will allow the Operation to generate assets and personnel and their deployment more strategically. At this stage, this is a political agreement and formal scrutiny will not be required until later in 2010, when a Council Decision is agreed. We will ensure the Committees of both Houses are given as much opportunity as possible to scrutinise the proposed Council Decision when it becomes available."

22.9  In the meantime, the Minister notes that the UK continues to provide a significant direct contribution to a number of international efforts to counter piracy, including the Operation commander, Operation headquarters and the planned allocation of a frigate in early 2011 to Operation ATALANTA; provision of a frigate and Deputy Commander to the Combined Maritime Forces' (CMF) presence in the region; provision of a frigate and recent task force command of NATO's Operation OCEAN SHIELD; and leading a Working Group within the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS) with lead responsibility for operational naval coordination and regional capability development.

22.10  The Minister also describes the cost of the EU's Operation Atalanta to the UK as "very limited":

"Command structures for EU-led operations are funded by all Member States through common costs. This year, Operation Atalanta's common costs, including the headquarters, total €9.4M; the UK contributes €0.5M. The level of the first call for 2010 equates to less than 50% of the overall agreed budget, therefore a further call for funds would if required be received as a result of the mid-year review process in July. Extending the area of operations will have a negligible effect on the overall cost of the operation to the UK."

22.11  Finally, the Minister says that the document will agreed by written procedure.


22.12  No questions arise from this document, which we now clear.

22.13  Looking ahead, when the Minister submits the next Council Decision later this year, we ask that the Minister ensures that his Explanatory Memorandum covers not just the Council Decision itself, but also issues raised in the previous Committee's most recent report.[101] There, they referred again to a relevant letter published by "The Times" on 5 December 2009 from the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, which they reproduced at Annex 1 to their Report, and in which he called for:

—  help in the restoration of both effective government and the training of national security forces required to secure peace and enforce laws;

—  restoring and enforcing Somalia's economic exclusion zone "so that Somalia can use its vast potential wealth in fish, oil and gas to fund its own future";

—  a large scale civil affairs programme to train Somalia's young people and establish legitimate commercial livelihoods.

22.14  Though there has been a response to his request for help in the training of Somalia's national security forces, it is not clear to what extent the other two are being effectively addressed.

22.15  We therefore ask the Minister addresses these issues in his Explanatory Memorandum and provides information concerning any reviews of Operation Atlanta's effectiveness, together with his views about progress thus far and on the best way forward.

99   See headnote. Back

100   See (31259) -: HC 5-vii (2009-10), chapter 2 (20 January 2010) and the subsequent the European Committee debate at Back

101   See (31174) 16450/09: HC 5-iii (2009-10), chapter 19 (9 December 2009). Back

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