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EU Set To Send Joint Naval Force To Somalia
Andrew Spurrier and Justin Stares
Deauville , France , October 2, 2008 – Momentum is building towards the creation of a European Union navy task force for combating piracy in the waters off the Somali coast.
EU defense ministers are expected to agree to what amounts to their first joint naval operation when they meet next month, with a view to having ships in the region before the end of the year.
German Defense Minister Franz Joseph Jung said that the EU would be sending three frigates, a supply ship and three reconnaissance aircrafts. Germany itself would be supplying a frigate, he added. The mission still has to be approved by the German parliament.
Spain is also reported to have promised a reconnaissance aircraft.
Approval to pursue preparations for the creation of the force was given in principle at an informal gathering of EU defense ministers in Deauville , France , on Wednesday and is expected to be formalized at the EU Council of Ministers on November 10.
The EU operates stand-by anti-pollution vessels but has until now not engaged in joint navy operations. A piracy ‘cell' consisting of three officers was set up in Brussels last month to co-ordinate the EU's response in the region.
But there are still doubts about the effectiveness of any naval force, given restricted rules of engagement. The Danish Navy released a group of ten suspected pirates last month after deciding they could not be brought to court in Denmark . The UK 's Royal Navy is understood to be under similar orders not to arrest pirates because they may claim asylum.
French defense minister Hervé Morin said that 10 countries had agreed to participate in the EU force.
He indicated that Belgium , France , Germany , Cyprus , Spain , Lithuania , the Netherlands and Sweden had given firm commitments but said that the UK would “probably” also participate even though it had said that its naval fleet was already heavily committed.
Britain has also been sounded about its willingness to serve as operational headquarters for the EU mission, according to Mr. Morin.
Mr. Morin said that ministers hoped that there would also be NATO and, particularly, US involvement in the force, “given the number of ships passing in this part of the world under American flag”.
Asked why EU ministers were not taking immediate action, given the high incidence of pirate attacks recently, Mr. Morin argued that they were acting with particular speed given the nature and scale of the operation they were preparing.
“You cannot carry out an operation of this scale in a few days,” he said, revealing that he and his Spanish opposite number Carme Chacon had launched the initiative for the project on August 1.
Funding for the mission could come from the United Nations. French newspaper Le Monde reported the Paris would push for a security council resolution which would “mobilize” funds for the mission. –
Additional reporting by Patrick Hagen