BRUSSELS, July 16 (KUNA) — European Union political and military officials Tuesday said international cooperation had led to a steep drop in acts of piracy off Somalia but also warned that one should not be complacent because of the successes.
“The fight against piracy has been a real success. The number of pirate attacks has diminished dramatically,” Nick Westcott, Managing Director Africa at the EU foreign service, known as the European External Action Service, told a press conference.
He said that during the last four or five years, the EU has invested one billion euro in Somalia in various forms.
“This is a major investment we made because re-establishing stability in the Horn of Africa as a whole and in Somalia in particular is of vital interest to the EU. Operation Atlanta has played a critical role in that,” he said.
Westcott announced that the EU will host a major international conference in Brussels on Somalia in September to enable the Somali government to set out is priorities for reconstructing the country and for the international community to support its plans.
On his part, EU Naval Force Operation Commander Bob Tarrant told the joint press conference that “there has been a lot of success against piracy. ” “That success has come about due to a number of contributing factors,” he said. .
Tarrant explained that an efficient force at sea able to deter and disrupt piracy and the response from the shipping industry which developed a successful cooperation with the Atlanta and other missions in the area some of the reasons for the success story.
But he added that “we cannot be complacent about this tactical success. Piracy is a crime and the motive is money. The pirates want money. This has not changed. The success needs to be followed up by establishing a more stable Somalia.” He said there are still five thousand ships passing off the coast of Somalia each month. “If we in the military and the industry do not sustain both the deterrence and disruption effect then there will be a problem. Pirates are still roaming free. There are three pirate groups operating. Let us not say that piracy has gone,” he said. Tarrant noted that in the last few months 21 pirates were detained and some of them have been taken to Mauritius and some to Seychelles to stand trial. About 1,000 pirates have been convicted or are in the process of being convicted, he said.
In December 2008, the EU launched the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) Somalia Operation Atalanta whose mandate has been extended until December 2014. At the same time, the EU also extended the area of operation to include Somali coastal territory and internal waters.
According to figures released by EU NAVFOR, the number of successful pirate attacks has fallen. Pirates captured 47 vessels and their crews in 2010. By 2011 the number had reduced but 25 vessels were still held by pirates. In December 2012 EU NAVFOR registered four ships being captured. Since 2011 the number of hostages dropped from up to 680 to 114 in December 2012.
The agreed budget for EU NAVFOR amounted to EUR 8.4 million in 2010, EUR 8.
05 million in 2011 and EUR 8.3 million in 2012. Budget of euro 14.9 million is provided for the common costs of the mandate until December 2014.
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