Operation Atalanta, the European Union operation against piracy in the Indian Ocean, has been heralded the most successful EU mission to date and is likely to be extended for a further two years, writes Liz McMahon .
Since the beginning of December, Spain has assumed command of the operation, which is set to run until December 2012. The acting Spanish Minister for Defence, Carme Chacón, proposed the operation be extended for a further two years at a meeting held by EU defence and foreign affairs ministers in Brussels last week.
A spokesman for EU high representative for foreign affairs and security Catherine Ashton said the EU member states had given a clear signal of their willingness to extend the Operation Atalanta mandate until December 2014.
“Such a decision will enable long term planning and force generation and will also send a clear political message to our partners of the EU’s commitment in the fight against piracy in the Horn of Africa and Indian Ocean,” he added.
A spokesman for EU Navfor said the future of the Atalanta mission was currently being discussed by the EU Military Committee, the Political & Security Committee and at ministerial level.
“There is support for a mandate extension but a formal decision is unlikely until early in 2012,” he added. This provisional deadline was echoed by Ms Ashton’s spokesman.
Operation Atalanta began in December 2008 and the decision to initially extend the mission was taken on its second anniversary in 2010.
Naval vessels for the operation are expected to dip below the minimum level between December 2011 and March 2012 due to lack of international funding. Industry experts hope an extension and recognition of the mission’s achievements may help to promote Operation Atalanta’s importance.
The EU is also mulling over a regional project aimed at providing technical assistance and training to the coast guard of countries such as Kenya, Djibouti and the Seychelles.