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Debates
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

18. Maritime piracy (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  President. – The next item is the Commission statement on maritime piracy (2011/2962(RSP)).

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Madam President, the Commission is well aware of the threat piracy is posing to European – and not only European – ships and crews. It is unacceptable that criminal gangs are allowed to continue to take the international shipping lanes hostage and bring suffering to thousands of seafarers and their families – not to mention the threat to the stability and prosperity of the region and Somalia itself.

We all agree that only a comprehensive approach can bring a sustainable solution to the problem of piracy.

Containing maritime piracy at sea and ending impunity are two important elements of the EU’s comprehensive approach to combat piracy. Others relate to building regional capacities and the stabilisation of Somalia itself. Also, we definitely should not forget cooperation with the maritime industry.

When it comes to containing piracy at sea, the most visible of all EU counter-piracy action is EU NAVFOR – Operation Atalanta. The Council has just decided to prolong its mandate to December 2014.

But how do we make sure justice is served, once suspects have been arrested by the naval forces? One way of addressing impunity is by the prosecution of piracy suspects in the region. The Commission directly supports countries in the region which have accepted transfers for prosecution by EU NAVFOR and established a joint programme with the UN in support of judicial capacities. This cooperation is an excellent example of how Commission programmes and common security and defence policy actions go hand in hand.

Piracy has to be understood as organised crime that is happening at sea and on land. In the long run, only the establishment of the rule of law, good governance and economic development will bring the solutions we are seeking. The EU is therefore strongly committed to supporting Somalia in finding a political solution to the ongoing crisis. At the recent London conference, the international community showed strong determination to support the transition process in Somalia.

To date, the EU is the biggest donor to Somalia, having committed EUR 415 million for development aid through the European Development Fund for the period 2008 to 2013. On top of these bilateral funds come additional budget funds from horizontal lines and EUR 77 million during 2011 for humanitarian aid.

Part of the new development funds will be directed to supporting the fishing industry, building alternative livelihoods and helping coastal communities and rural development more generally, thus tackling some of the root causes of piracy.

The European Union is also supporting the development of Somali security capacities. In addition to the training of police officers – we also provide some financial support if they stay in the service of the Somali Government – we are the main donor to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which is funded through the African Peace Facility. Since 2007 the European Union has provided EUR 325 million and the Commission is proposing additional support for AMISOM.

As in the area of counter-piracy efforts, Commission action is closely linked with Council-led CSDP actions such as the EU Training Mission to Somalia (EUTM).

There is also an important role for the maritime industry to play in containing the threat of piracy. It is vital to implement International Maritime Organisation-supported ‘best management practices’ on board ships under EU Member State flags.

Let me also assure you that the Commission is following very closely the case of two Italian marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who are now in custody in India. We have been in constant touch with the Italian Government on this issue from the beginning. Following Italy’s request for assistance, the EU has raised the issue with the Indian authorities both in Brussels and in New Delhi, encouraging a positive outcome as soon as possible. Yesterday, the High Representative, Cathy Ashton, also discussed these matters with Prime Minister Mario Monti, who thanked the High Representative for the EU’s efforts.

It is clear that we need to address this issue in the broader context of our cooperation on counter-piracy and, more specifically, the regulation of armed protection aboard ships. We need to see what lessons we can learn to prevent this type of incident from happening ever again. The European Union and India had already agreed in principle to work on these broader policy issues, and this is what we are currently also taking forward.

But we have to differentiate between this case of EU Member States’ security forces protecting commercial shipments and using private contractors for armed deterrence on board commercial ships and even distant fishing vessels.

Due to the immensity of the sea area where Somali pirates now operate and the scarce naval resources available to protect this shipping lane, the industry has had no other choice than to turn to the services provided by privately contracted armed security personnel on board ships transiting the high-risk areas. This is an increasing phenomenon that we cannot ignore.

The International Maritime Organisation has already addressed this item and issued interim recommendations but, as no solution to piracy is apparent in the short term, we believe this must be addressed in more depth.

We are not confident with the idea of self-regulation by this new business in view of the risks involved in this kind of activity, which can potentially lead to the – sometimes lethal – use of force. In this regard, we think that the IMO is the international body that should lead to the development of very clear, stringent rules and, in particular, of a mandatory instrument.

Ensuring prosecution of pirates captured at sea only takes care of one part of the problem. It is therefore vital to increase the ‘risk/reward’ ratio for those who benefit most from piracy, and the EU has decided to step up its efforts to break the underlying business model. Law enforcement agencies of EU Member States, Interpol and Europol are currently cooperating, not only in attempting to trace any flows going into EU Member States, but also in collecting evidence packages against leaders, financiers and instigators.

Another element of the EU comprehensive approach is the support of the region. It is in the strategic interest of regional countries to engage in the fight against piracy. The EU is definitely keen to assist and enhance local ownership. This is why the European Union has been a strong supporter of the Eastern and Southern Africa – Indian Ocean Regional Strategy and Action Plan, which was adopted in October 2010 in Mauritius to fight piracy and promote maritime security.

Support measures are under way, and up to EUR 40 million of further support is currently under consideration. We have also been enhancing the surveillance capacities of our partner countries through the EU’s network of fisheries partnership agreements, which strengthen our relations with the countries in the Western Indian Ocean area, and the regional surveillance programme, which we have been financing with EUR 10 million from 2007 to 2011, and which is going to be renewed.

The Critical Maritime Routes Programme funded under the Instrument for Stability has also focused since 2009 on the security and safety of essential maritime routes in the areas affected by piracy. In close coordination with the IMO, one of the projects contributes to the implementation of the regional Djibouti Code of Conduct.

I would like to thank the European Parliament especially for requesting a pilot project on ‘maritime awareness’, which will provide technical tools to help the authorities to be aware of what goes on at sea. These programmes will work very closely with the planned Regional Maritime Capacity Building Mission.

 
  
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  Georgios Koumoutsakos, on behalf of the PPE Group. (EL) Madam President, Commissioner, no one could have predicted a few years ago that piracy would be such a serious threat today to international trade and shipping and to regional and international security. Above all, however, piracy is a threat to the security and lives of thousands of seafarers and workers on ships that cross the danger zones in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

As we speak, hundreds of seafarers are being held hostage. They and their families will live on tenterhooks for hours, days or even months. The humanitarian dimension of piracy alone forces us to take more decisive action. Piracy has become a very lucrative business for pirates, with large profits at little risk. Their tactics are developing and their operational capacity is increasing impressively in an area of huge strategic importance to the international economy. Three million barrels of oil and approximately 50% of global container trade cross this area every day. The annual cost of piracy is calculated to be between USD 7 and 12 billion.

Piracy is a strategic-type threat; it is a shared challenge that requires collective action. The causes of piracy are rooted on land, but their results are felt at sea. With the biggest fleet in the world, the European Union needs to act more decisively. Today, we need to take a decisive lead in international efforts to combat piracy. The coming months will be crucial.

In coordination with the International Maritime Organisation, the UN and NATO, it is high time that we identified the flow of illegal and black money, that we plugged legal loopholes, so that pirates can be prosecuted effectively, that we uprooted the diaspora of pirate bases in the area as a whole, and that we promoted the definition of exclusive economic zones in the area in accordance with the international law of the sea.

Commissioner, I listened very carefully to what you said. I would add that another positive step has been made with the appointment of a representative in the Horn of Africa. That is a positive development. As I said, I listened carefully to all the measures. They are all positive. Do you know what is missing as far as I am concerned? Decisiveness. I have not seen the decisiveness we are calling for. We expect far more.

 
  
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  Saïd El Khadraoui, on behalf of the S&D Group. (NL) Madam President, piracy is a phenomenon which continues to cause us concern and which merits the European institutions’ attention. Last year, there were no fewer than 300 attacks and attempted attacks on ships in a danger zone which, only a few years ago, was limited to the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, but which has, in the meantime, extended to encompass practically the entire West Indian Ocean. Twenty-five ships were actually hijacked and more than 400 crew members held hostage. We have also had 11 deaths.

In just the first two months of this year, 35 attempted hijackings have already taken place, with three ships actually being hijacked. This situation means that crew members are having to risk their lives simply to do their jobs. However, we are also suffering significant economic loss, directly or indirectly, in the form of demands for ransoms, higher insurance premiums, detours having to be made in order to avoid hazardous areas, Operation Atalanta itself, obviously, higher food prices, etc., the total costs of which could be estimated at many billions. What we therefore need is additional and sustained action.

While Operation Atalanta has, indeed, been extended until the end of 2014, in a few years’ time, the number of ships actively contributing to the operation will be reduced from 35 to 10 and, at one point at the start of this year, that number dropped to as few as three ships. Tackling piracy requires a comprehensive approach, of course – as you have already mentioned – in Somalia itself, in the region.

In addition, we are finding that the pressure on shipping companies to take responsibility for the safety of their ships and crew into their own hands, by employing private security firms, is increasing every day. We therefore need to look very closely at that. A number of EU flag states allow this, others do not. It is desirable that the European Commission comes up with clear guidelines regulating this: for example, to agree arrangements for training criteria for security agencies, procedures concerning the use of arms, recording of incidents, the nature of weapons which may be held on board, etc.

I would like to ask you to comment in greater detail on this and to clarify how you view this matter; and I also ask you not to wait for the IMO. Take action on this issue now and, of course, on any of the other issues which members here are undoubtedly going to raise.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(ES) Madam President, I would like to begin this speech by talking about people. Our first priority is to free the men and women who remain kidnapped by pirates, in whichever sea they operate.

Hundreds of human beings are suffering as a result of a crime that has serious psychological consequences. They require specialist attention and recognition, as well as support, which they have not had up to now. The hostages in these kidnappings suffer because of the actions of organised criminal groups, which are very violent and operate outside the European Union. European and state regulations have to recognise this situation.

The humanitarian aid, merchant and fishing fleets that suffer at the hands of piracy are carrying out lawful, honest activities protected by international law. In the case of fishing, good environmental practices are being observed and local development is being supported.

From this perspective, the pirates cannot justify their attacks, nor can we allow them to. Therefore, it is necessary to extend Operation Atalanta, and I ask: why has there been a reduction in the resources made available and what is your view on the Somali authorisation to attack pirate bases on the coast? Commissioner, I would like you to answer these two questions.

Poverty is what makes many turn to piracy. Today, there are more than 3 500 criminals of this kind operating in organised groups in the Indian Ocean alone. Piracy forces up the cost of operations of shipowners, those working on the seas and public administrations by around EUR 5 billion per year. We will all benefit if we add a fraction of this amount to what we already put towards development and cooperation, because we can eliminate this misery.

In 2011, only 13% of the 237 attacks that took place were successful, as opposed to 27% that succeeded in 2010. However, the ransoms paid have broken all records. Let us pledge to insist on this action before it is too late.

 
  
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  Keith Taylor, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. Madam President, Parliament started to draft a resolution on this, led by the Committee on Transport and Tourism, for which I am the Green shadow.

We recognise that maritime piracy is an extremely complicated and problematic issue, but we also believe that it is a horizontal one, incorporating development, security and foreign affairs aspects, while the link with transport issues is more secondary. I am given to understand that the reason why the Transport Committee is the leading committee is because the Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport wants to lead on this instead of DG Development.

Greens are completely against this shift, as solutions to maritime piracy do not lie primarily with changes to transport policy. Therefore, we welcome the fact that this resolution was taken off the agenda for this plenary session. If Parliament is determined to have a resolution on this, we think it should be led by another committee such as the Subcommittee on Security and Defence, as well as being better timed in order to tie in with the external work and developments.

Apart from the fact that we do not think that the Transport Committee should be leading on this issue, the solutions in the draft resolution are not in line with previous Parliament resolutions on piracy, Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Furthermore, they are too militarily based. We are against further militarisation and strongly in favour of strengthening the criminal justice approach to piracy, as advocated by the United Nations Special Advisor on Piracy, Mr Jack Lang.

This, ultimately, would also need a change in any future resolution from this place on this issue.

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen, on behalf of the ECR Group.(NL) Over recent years, the problems with piracy have done nothing but grow. What we are seeing is that more and more ships are being captured, more sailors taken hostage and that the area in which the pirates are operating has grown considerably. The price paid has also increased, in terms of both lives lost and ransoms. Hundreds of seafarers are currently being held captive in camps in Somalia, in a situation that you and I would hope to never find ourselves.

It is thus high time to adopt a more robust approach to piracy. This, I believe, involves four elements.

1. The Member States really need to pull out all the stops to free captive sailors and, for me, that also includes targeted actions on the Somali coast.

2. The Member States of the EU now, for once, need to agree to the deployment of certified, armed security personnel on board. At the moment, we have a situation where some Member States allow these security personnel, while others do not. The pirates, however, know exactly how these ships sail and follow them precisely, so they know which ships have no security personnel on board. The result is an extra risk for those ships specifically. Thus, while we are dealing with a security risk, we are also dealing with competition.

3. There are indications that those at the top of the piracy gangs are laundering money via banks in Africa and Europe. This means that the security services need to follow these money trails and ensure that the banks involved are dealt with.

4. Somalia is a lawless society. The Commission needs to produce a plan to set Somalia right. For me, Commissioner Piebalgs, there needs to be a little more ambition, and I would like to hear what you have to say in response.

 
  
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  Younous Omarjee, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(FR) Madam President, in this debate, we are also daring to shed light on some uncomfortable truths, truths about the root causes of piracy.

Firstly, there are the fisheries agreements imposed by the European Union which coordinate the shameless pillaging of Somali territorial waters. It is this pillaging and also that of illegal fishing that has ruined the lives of thousands of families of fishermen and made young people turn towards piracy. Every year, USD 450 million worth of fish is caught, depriving the Somali population, one of the poorest populations in the world, of a vital food and economic resource.

Another truth that is often brushed under the carpet: the waters off the Horn of Africa have become a veritable dumping ground for toxic waste, waste of any kind, including radioactive waste, which is being dumped in violation of the rules of international law. Ultimately, under the pretext of combating piracy, it is, in fact, foreign policy interests, geostrategic interests and economic interests that are being served.

That is the real story; that is how this phenomenon has been able to develop. While we are focusing on this fight which, I agree, is necessary for ensuring the security of our maritime highways, the real bandits – in Africa’s case the multinationals – are continuing to act with total impunity.

 
  
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  Juozas Imbrasas, on behalf on the EFD Group. (LT) Madam President, there has been an increase in the number of criminal assaults against fishing, merchant and passenger vessels in international waters. This poses a risk to the lives and security of both crew and passengers and has a significant negative impact on international trade. It is therefore essential to ensure the unimpeded passage and protection of vessels plying their trade legally on the high seas because this is a precondition for international trade. Legal instruments dealing with piracy and armed robbery must be reviewed, updated and adapted to today’s situation as soon as possible, with a view to prosecuting and passing sentence on the perpetrators of such crimes under existing international law. There should be a particular focus on strengthening the security of vessels, on possible assistance for ships’ crews and their family members, the actions of international organisations in the fight against piracy and other important and necessary initiatives. Both political and legislative efforts must be concentrated on developing a global response to the challenges posed by modern piracy and armed assaults on vessels in order to eradicate a phenomenon such as piracy.

 
  
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  Izaskun Bilbao Barandica (ALDE), Blue-card question to Younous Omarjee.(ES) Madam President, you mentioned fishing boats fishing illegally. I would ask you whether you are aware of how European boats fish within the framework of agreements signed by the European Union, with good practices that could be used as an international model and reference and, furthermore, whether you know that, for example, 80% of local development in the Seychelles comes as a result of there being a European fleet present, which the inhabitants of this region asked for?

I would also like to ask you what you mean when you talk about illegal fishing – because your speech caused some confusion – and who you are talking about? I believe that the European fleet, acting under the agreements signed by the European Union, is, as I have already said, an international reference and model. Were this model to be followed, the sustainability of global fisheries would be different. Therefore, I would like you, if possible, to answer these questions.

 
  
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  Younous Omarjee (GUE/NGL), Blue-card answer.(FR) Madam President, I am ready for the debate. If you had listened very carefully to what I was saying, I made a distinction between the fisheries agreements, on the one hand, and illegal fishing, on the other. Clearly, we see this problem of piracy in different ways, since I am also taking into consideration the interests of the African people and the Horn of Africa. We can prolong this debate indefinitely but my text is clear and I think that I have defended a position which is undoubtedly unpopular, but which also needed to be expressed here.

 
  
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  Mathieu Grosch (PPE).(DE) Madam President, maritime piracy is not a new topic for us in this House. We had a resolution on this as long ago as 2009. In the Committee on Transport and Tourism, we do not want to turn this into a procedural issue, either. We want to help the people concerned and are happy to draw up a resolution jointly with the other committees that feel that they are affected and are able to help. That is therefore the approach that we have decided upon.

Maritime piracy is primarily a threat to people. As my fellow Member has already said, it is also a threat to foreign trade, but also to local fisheries. That is also something we must not forget. Most importantly, it is even a threat to aid programmes that need to reach the area and are also threatened. It is also clear that in recent years, precisely as a result of this threat, this profession – which is a very interesting one that is also internationally recognised – is suffering terribly as a result, because this threat continues to exist for the people at local level. First of all, therefore – and this was already included in the 2009 resolution – we would like the EU to take the initiative. The International Maritime Organisation is – with all due respect – too weak and too slow.

We need to take the initiative – in connection with the legal framework and certification – so that people who are responsible for ensuring security in future do not find themselves in situations like that of two colleagues from Italy, and so that we do not also have an uncertain framework there in future. Thus, we need to tackle this problem and show greater initiative at EU level in order to then place this issue on the international stage. That is what we expect. That is also something that we are happy to discuss with the other committees.

 
  
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  Ana Gomes (S&D).(PT) Madam President, piracy is a serious problem, although it is not the only one or the most serious problem off the coast of the Horn of Africa. To combat it effectively, the European Union has to put in place a comprehensive strategy for the region. This implies attacking the source of the piracy, which is not located at sea, but on land. It lies in the lack of government, governance and representative bodies to protect the interests of the Somali people. As Operation Atalanta does not fit within such a strategy, it is failing to achieve its objectives, despite its importance as a naval mission in the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy. Worse, piracy is now sophisticated and has the wind in its sails, and Al-Shabaab has grown, armed itself, and become more radical.

The principal mandate of Atalanta is to protect international shipping off the Somali coast. However, what is the European Union doing in relation to the many other maritime crimes committed by foreign ships in the same waters, from illegal fishing to dumping of toxic waste? What information has Brussels received about this matter from Atalanta during the three years the operation has already been in place, to fulfil the mandate that it also has regarding fishing within 200 miles of the Somali coast? Can this information be supplied to Parliament? Has the European Union submitted this information to the UN and requested that the Security Council look at it?

Somalia and the region need a strengthened and concerted effort at political, diplomatic, economic and military – on land as well as at sea – levels, involving the UN, the African Union, the United States, the European Union, India, China and other powers, but founded on the concept of human security so that it can meet the Somali people’s need for sovereignty and development, which lie at the root of the piracy industry. Such an effort must produce results in building representative bodies in Somalia, which are demonstrably not being achieved by the artificial Transitional Federal Government sustained by invading troops from neighbouring Ethiopia, and it must not keep ignoring the potential for governance that could expand from the autonomous areas of Puntland and Somaliland, with which the European Union has to work.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Peter van Dalen (ECR), Blue-card question.(NL) Madam President, what Ms Gomes has had to say has been impressive, but changing Somalia is not something that can be done overnight; it is something that will take I do not know how many years.

This is a problem right now. Seafarers are being held captive right now. Ships are being captured and people taken hostage right now. In light of that, I would like to ask you what you think of the idea of these ships carrying armed security personnel in order to ensure that they are able to sail through the region safely. We do need to fix Somalia, but we are also facing a problem now. What do you have to say about that?

 
  
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  Ana Gomes (S&D), Blue-card answer. Madam President, I do not think that private security firms are the solution, but the EU, I would agree, can be. This is not a problem that can be solved overnight. It is a problem that has existed since at least 2005. The EU should have an autonomous strategy for Somalia.

If we look at how much money we have spent in the whole operation and at the results, including in fighting piracy, these are quite limited, because our objectives cannot be achieved until the core question of the governance in Somalia is addressed. The effort is too big for the EU alone. It has to act in concert with others in the international community. How much money could have been saved, though, if something more meaningful had been done for governance in Somalia. Nothing has been done so far.

Our strategy has been to follow the US totally in a very non-critical way. That is why we are where we are and unhappy with the results, including in fighting piracy and hostage taking. Until we address the question of governance in Somalia – and not with a fake institution like the TFG, the transitional government – we will not improve the situation for ships passing through those waters.

 
  
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  Nathalie Griesbeck (ALDE).(FR) Madam President, Commissioner, Somali pirates are tirelessly attacking cargo boats off their coasts. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean is not on the decline, as we have just heard. On the contrary, captures of hostages, demands for ransoms, disappearances and robberies on the high seas are becoming more frequent every day. The incidents are not only frequent, but often very violent and it is useless to look towards the past. We must see how we are going to build the future, since pirates are also no longer hesitating to enter the territorial waters of foreign states, so anything is possible.

I, myself, was on a mission a few months ago in the Gulf of Aden with sailors from Operation Atalanta and I can tell you that I am sure that without their brave action, the attacks would be even more frequent, even more violent and even more dangerous.

I have two fundamental questions. The first concerns the outcomes of the arrests and subsequent detentions of pirates and the problem with regard to their sentencing. Today, when pirates are apprehended, at great risk to the sailors, they are held for a statutory period of time directly on board the ships before being released, and therefore they revert to type and are soon committing acts of piracy again. Also, should we not urgently put in place at least some assistance towards creating a judicial system that allows for sanctions to be imposed against these pirates?

Secondly, as has just been highlighted – and I do not share the opinion expressed just a moment ago –Operation Atalanta’s role is essential. It is, in fact, the cornerstone of protecting and fighting against pirates and, personally, I am worried about the growing number of private companies that are ensuring the protection of these ships. What are these companies? Who is in charge of them? What exactly are their prerogatives? We have seen on several international stages that turning to these private companies can lead to serious abuse (abusive use of force, murder of civilians, and so on). Therefore, we must monitor them and limit their use as much as possible. What do you propose, Commissioner?

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (ECR). - Madam President, what a pity the European Union does not focus its comprehensive approach more effectively on some of the civil areas the Commissioner has described so well.

I am sorry to say that in regard to piracy, as in so many other areas, the European Union has confused its own institutional ambitions with practical reality, and I am referring here to naval operations.

Since 2008, NATO, using naval forces from North American and European allies, has been engaged in both counter-piracy and maritime counter-terrorism operations in the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and in the Gulf areas. But during its Presidency, France saw an opportunity to open a new chapter in EU defence policy and create a maritime dimension for the European Union. Operation Atalanta was born. And the upshot I have to say is costly confusion.

There are now at least three multinational naval operations as well as deployments from individual countries such as Russia, India, China and Japan. There have been some successes, but attacks have escalated and the risk of serious consequences for pirates, as the Commissioner has said, is still too low to outweigh the lucrative rewards.

In January 2012, 80 pirates were captured by counter-piracy forces in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, 75% of these were captured by NATO ships, yet maintaining the political will and naval assets for NATO’s operation Ocean Shield has been a challenge, particularly when more or less the same naval assets are being called on for an EU operation. The European Union should do something comprehensive on the civil side.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE), Blue-card question.(EL) Madam President, Mr Van Orden, I listened very carefully to what you said. You referred once again to efforts being made by the European Union to combat piracy, basically in order to tell us that the European Union should not have a common security and defence policy.

That would be a mistake and you know it would. On the question of piracy in particular, the first operation carried out – Operation Atalanta – was an EU operation; after a delay of several months, NATO followed suit. The first response was European and results were achieved.

I therefore think that you should clarify exactly what you wanted to say and what your message was.

 
  
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  Geoffrey Van Orden (ECR), Blue-card answer. Madam President, we have got to get our facts right here. There were NATO combined task groups operating in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean well before Atalanta was dreamed up. This was purely an initiative of the French Presidency acting out of Djibouti and that is what brought it all about.

What I am talking about is the way the European Union has military ambitions. It should leave military operations to those that know how to do it. We have a very good international alliance for that and it is called NATO.

One of the earlier speakers mentioned the lack of resources that are deployed. Well, no wonder there is a lack of resources because we have got the same navies producing ships for two different international naval operations. It is ridiculous. The European Union brings no additional naval assets to the table. It does not contribute anything additionally from a naval point of view.

So by all means. There is a lot to be done and even the European Union could do something useful if it focused its efforts on some of the civil activities which we have heard described this evening. But leave the military operations to those that know what they are doing. It is just going to waste money and overstretch our very depleted military forces.

 
  
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  Georgios Toussas (GUE/NGL).(EL) Madam President,, the absolute poverty and impoverishment of millions of people caused by capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America is being exploited by powerful international circles that are developing piracy as a very profitable business activity that utilises highly frequented trade routes and is linked to the arms and drugs trade and prostitution rings.

The problem of piracy and armed robbery at sea has taken on huge proportions and claimed the lives of thousands of seafarers. What illustrates the change in the standard of piracy is the increase in the level of action by piracy gangs, because the objective today is not confined to robbing seafarers and stealing food or other items on board; it now extends to taking ships and crews hostage, selling the cargo and stealing booty worth millions of euro.

The concentration in the Horn of Africa and the area as a whole of powerful US, NATO and EU naval forces and naval forces from other countries, such as China, Russia and India, has nothing to do with fighting piracy. Piracy is being used as a pretext, within the framework of their more general geostrategic objectives, to consolidate their position, promote staff plans and control strategically important points in the area, such as the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Developments in the Persian Gulf, Israeli, UN and NATO aggression against Iran and preparations for another imperialist war will find a naval machine ready for war in the area which is being strengthened on the pretext of piracy. Ships and crews are already being sought to carry military equipment for major military operations by NATO in the Persian Gulf area.

The matter is further complicated by the decision by the governments of the Member States of the European Union to place armed guards on merchant vessels. This is creating a very dangerous situation that will have incalculable consequences, due to the threat which it harbours to human life at sea and the transportation by sea of raw materials and cargo.

The proposed solution is a no-win solution and it harbours risks to human life at sea, to seafarers and to the people in the area as a whole.

 
  
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  Michael Gahler (PPE).(DE) Madam President, in respect of its main purpose, the EU NAVFOR Operation Atalanta mission should so far be regarded as a success. After all, its main purpose is to protect the supply vessels of the World Food Programme as they deliver food to Somalia. So far, around 674 000 tonnes have been delivered. Not a single tonne of this food has been lost. To that extent, it has certainly achieved its main purpose.

However, this mission does, of course, have other objectives, which have been mentioned. In this connection, I believe it is right for us, as the European Union, to be present on the ground in the shape of this mission, as the fact is that, in this regard, the partners working in cooperation with the EU – that is Russia, China and India – find it easier to work with the EU than they do with NATO. We do not need to share this view – and I am sure that we do not share it – but it is nevertheless a fact. This added value provided by the EU is also something that we should utilise.

I also support the comprehensive approach that the Commissioner mentioned. After all, we have numerous measures on land, some of which are very creative. For example, we support projects in places where piracy does not occur, in Somaliland, that is to say, in the north-western part of the country. The Commissioner has been there. I think it is good that we are taking a pragmatic approach there and, in so doing, are ensuring that we stabilise the areas that are opposed to piracy.

I would have liked us to have been able to find out more about the money flows. You mentioned Europol and Interpol. Are you able yet to demonstrate successes in this regard, where we are able to say that we have recovered some of the money so that we can determine how the pirates there are funding themselves?

 
  
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  Maria Eleni Koppa (S&D).(EL) Madam President, we should welcome the recent Council decisions on a global approach to piracy relating, firstly, to the appointment of a special representative for the Horn of Africa, which will support diplomatic action by the Union in the area, and secondly, to the new operational mission to extend action by the Atalanta mission and, thirdly, to the preparation of a new mission, within the framework of European defence and security policy, to support the development of capacities at local level.

However, it is important that we consider where we have gone wrong over recent years. On the operational side, we really must overcome the obstacles to the activation of the operational centre in Brussels, because that is the only way to guarantee central planning and better coordination between the various EU missions and activities. Also, we need to review the Athena mechanism to secure funding and increase the contribution to those missions. Finally, we need to resolve serious problems to do with timely information for forces on the ground.

At the same time, however, we need to examine the possible dangers inherent in operations on the Somali coast and focus more on the need to deal with the causes of piracy. As far as the causes are concerned, we all know that instability and poverty in Somalia have pushed simple citizens into this illegal activity. The solution cannot, under any circumstances, be a purely military solution. Alongside military action, we need to strengthen institutions and the rule of law and, most importantly, we need to step up efforts to combat the root causes of piracy, with emphasis on information and awareness-raising and, of course, on growth and job opportunities.

 
  
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  Phil Bennion (ALDE). - Madam President, the issue of maritime piracy is becoming more and more urgent. We see ransom negotiations not just taking longer, but record ransoms being demanded and the piracy itself becoming more and more violent.

Maritime safety is an absolutely fundamental issue for the European Union, and particularly for those nations like the UK, Greece and Spain which have significant shipping interests. However, the fight against piracy cannot and will not be won alone by military means. We need to promote peace and we need development and state-building in Somalia.

The EU is the biggest aid donor to Somalia. We should welcome a fresh approach based on land-based solutions, which would replace the income from piracy with that from economic development on land. I call on the Commission to tackle the lack of economic data that we have, so that the EU can focus its aid on the most relevant sectors. We know about the potential of the livestock and fisheries sector, but we need to look to other sectors.

I would also call for better cooperation with the Somalia diaspora, which has so far been ignored, but which plays a major role in supporting the Somali economy, particularly through remittances. It is suggested that these remittances could be as much as EUR 800 million every year.

From a local point of view, we have a large Somali community in my constituency in Birmingham. Therefore, I call on the Member States to strengthen their integration policy towards the Somali diaspora.

I welcome the progress that has been made with the Joint Financial Board, and I also agree that we need a short-term plan to protect our ships and protect our maritime transport and trade, whether that is through Atalanta, or through NATO, or through some form of better coordination between the two. This does not necessarily have to be just a short-term plan, as we also need a long-term plan.

Somalia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, where a quarter of the population rely on the World Food Programme. Now that we have this window of opportunity, with progress being made in reconciling the warring factions, we need to take advantage of the situation and move forward with development.

 
  
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  Inês Cristina Zuber (GUE/NGL).(PT) Madam President, it is obvious that the maritime piracy problem must be fought. However, the pretext of fighting maritime piracy must not, under any circumstances, be used to implement imperialistic plans for controlling international waters, geostrategically important regions, access to natural resources or their movement, as could be the danger in the Horn of Africa.

In the fight against maritime piracy, it is essential to fight the underlying causes associated with it, specifically fighting the poverty that the people of African countries suffer under the capitalist system, which has always used these countries for supplying the central countries with low-cost raw materials.

In this regard, it is necessary for there to be a genuine development policy that respects the sovereignty of these countries and people. It is necessary to reject the militarisation of the European Union and to show respect for international law, the United Nations Charter, the principles of sovereignty and non-interference, and the development of fairer and more equitable international economic relationships.

 
  
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  Carlo Fidanza (PPE).(IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I must note with regret the absence of Baroness Ashton from this debate. It would have been important for all of us to hear directly from her the latest updates on the situation involving the two Italian marines unjustly imprisoned in India after being arrested following the military operation against piracy in which they were involved. I am sorry not to be able to hear Baroness Ashton speak, and I hope that Mr Piebalgs’s response will provide more precise details about the progress made in the last few days.

This is not just an Italian issue, it is very much a European issue, because – you see – the exclusive jurisdiction of the country flying the flag is a universally recognised principle of international law, and the Indian authorities having brought it into doubt risks undermining the very heart of the battle against piracy by the international community and the European Union itself, which, as we have said, is involved in the Atalanta mission. Therefore, I appeal to the EU institutions to make all possible diplomatic efforts to repatriate our soldiers, ensure international law is upheld and make sure that they are the subject of a fair and transparent investigation in their country of origin.

In addition, Madam President, I would like to comment on the many speeches I have heard from my fellow Members from the radical left. Frankly, I am convinced that Europe must be committed on a political and diplomatic level to help Somalia and all struggling countries to develop, but this cannot be a sufficient response to the hundreds of hostages and families waiting for their loved ones to come home, who are tired of talk and want practical solutions in the matter of international security.

 
  
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  Ricardo Cortés Lastra (S&D).(ES) Madam President, Commissioner, all those present know that piracy on the high seas is a constant and growing threat to human life, safety and development, since it is a breeding ground for violence and political instability in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

In figures, piracy in the Gulf of Aden in the last year resulted in more than a dozen deaths from 30 attacks, 200 captured pirates and nearly 200 hostages. This is an unprecedented situation that is affecting humanitarian aid for some six million people who need help due to drought and famine in the region; a humanitarian crisis that has already caused the deaths of thousands of people.

The amount of money that shipping companies are spending on security is 40 times greater than the aid given to Somalia by the European Union. Although we cannot underestimate the global effort being made through operations such as Atalanta and the operations instigated by NATO, more effort and more commitments are required. These efforts absolutely must include an anti-piracy strategy driven and supported by the leaders of Central and East Africa.

The fight against piracy has become a global issue that needs a joint and firm response, with a set of effective actions to also tackle the root causes of this phenomenon: youth unemployment, famine, drought and political instability. We cannot forget that, according to the United Nations, 40% of profits from piracy in Somalia have been used to finance local employment and have been invested in infrastructure for those most in need.

Finally, I call on the Commission and the Council to continue taking firm measures to tackle the root of the problem. Helping the Horn of Africa to end piracy, which is not only on the increase but is also becoming increasingly violent, must continue to be our priority.

 
  
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  Corien Wortmann-Kool (PPE).(NL) Madam President, this is an important debate, as the piracy off the Somali coast – and, in fact, in a constantly increasing area of the Indian Ocean – is a very serious problem.

Time is pressing, as innocent crew members are becoming the victims of violence and facing unacceptable risks. Four hundred and fifty to 600 crew members are currently being held captive. In addition, I would also like to join our fellow Members from Italy in drawing attention to the plight of the Italian soldiers being held in India.

I value Europe’s collaboration in order to deploy European naval vessels in the Atalanta mission, but we need to do more and make greater efforts to effectively combat piracy. The pirates are becoming ever more violent, and their arsenal is becoming ever more advanced. We therefore need to ensure that we pool all our knowledge in order to also tackle the pirates on land and dismantle their organisation there. We do have the knowledge to locate these pirates before they actually go out and attack ships.

Doing that requires political will and drive, and that is what I urge the Commission to provide. Train land-based Somali forces. Look into the options for targeted action. In the short term, also investigate whether special forces can be deployed in order to tackle the pirates in a very focused way.

This also involves investigating theflows of money and tracing and prosecuting all those who help siphon off the pirates’ money. There is, you see, also an economic interest at stake here – that has been quite rightly pointed out already – and this is definitely also the case for the Netherlands, as a seafaring nation. Above all, however, we simply cannot allow all these innocent crew members to continue to run such risks. That is why I would appreciate your attention to this issue.

 
  
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  Spyros Danellis (S&D) . – (EL) Madam President, the problem of Somali pirates starts on land, not on the water. As long as this country continues to be the world’s most failed state, as the British Foreign Secretary recently called it, its young people will try to find ways and will find incentives to take to piracy.

However, our ships and their crews cannot be left to their fate until such time as the State of Somalia is restored. The reduced forces of EU NAVFOR are not up to the massive job delegated to them and the pirates arrested are not always brought before due judicial process.

Certain proposals have been tabled within the framework of the UN in terms of prosecuting pirates and are supported by the IMO. However, the lack of progress is prolonging the state of terrible insecurity of crews and shipping, while international trade and consumers are still shouldering most of the overall annual cost of piracy which, according to a recent study, is estimated to be close to USD 7 billion.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE).(FR) Madam President, as has already been said, we are thinking of the victims of piracy and their families. This is a human tragedy, but it is also a problem which is jeopardising an activity –fishing – that is also an economic resource. This must spur us on to call for reinforcement in the fight against this sea piracy, for these attacks are the work of increasingly violent criminal organisations and they are happening more and more often. We must therefore urgently put in place a military framework and, in particular, a legal framework to combat this piracy and ensure the protection of the men and ships, all the while reflecting on how we can put a stop to these unacceptable acts and dismantle this savage piracy.

That is why I do not understand why Operation Atalanta’s military resources have been reduced and why the Council vote on the extension of this operation has been postponed. I am therefore asking the Commission to urge Member States to efficiently increase this operation’s resources as quickly as possible. We must also ensure that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is applied in order to put an end to widespread and unacceptable impunity.

 
  
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  Debora Serracchiani (S&D).(IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the issue of piracy is not a new one here, and was dealt with by this Parliament in the 2009 resolution. Everyone is aware of the events involving two Italian soldiers, who were arrested for causing the death of two Indian fishermen. In this regard, I welcome the assurances of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, who has said she has been monitoring the case closely in order to bring it to a positive conclusion, and that the incident should be put, to quote her words, ‘into the broader context of international cooperation on counter-piracy and, more specifically, on the issue of regulating the protection aboard ships’.

However, the episode forces us to reflect on the fact that the phenomenon of piracy in the Indian Ocean or off the Somali coastline is still an extremely serious problem. As part of its defence and security policy, the EU launched the Atalanta mission in December 2008 and, in the last few days, its extension to 2014 was approved, but the number of ships involved has fallen dramatically, from 35 in 2009 to 10 in 2011. As we know, the EU intends to exercise greater coordination over the naval forces and military personnel on board civilian ships belonging to Member States patrolling the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Do we therefore feel that it is useful to establish common rules of engagement? Generally speaking, what other coordinated initiatives does the EU plan to adopt to protect merchant ships from attacks by pirates? In addition, what measures does it intend to take against third countries that fail to safeguard merchant ships crossing between the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean?

 
  
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  Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (PPE).(PT) Madam President, Commissioner, maritime piracy is an increasingly widespread and frequent occurrence today, and it is better organised, more profitable, audacious and violent. No vessel appears to be immune to it, from fishing boats and merchant vessels to yachts and cruise ships. There are 1 500 pirates operating off Somalia. People’s safety and liberty are seriously imperilled, and all maritime and economic activities suffer significant losses, not to mention the costs of rescues, insurance, diversions from routes, chases, etc. In 2012 alone, 22 attacks have been recorded and, just in February, Somali pirates captured 17 vessels and took 251 hostages.

In 2009, the Commission organised an intervention at two levels: prevention, deterrence and repression, and also fighting the causes that lead to piracy. However, piracy remains, and is growing, which requires the measures adopted by the Commission and the Member States to be strengthened.

The Commission must extend its military action beyond 2012 and intensify its diplomatic action to obtain effective collaboration from the third countries in which the pirates take shelter. Member States have to engage both in criminal investigations, in particular, with regard to tracing money paid for ransoms, and legally, in particular, with regard to establishing conditions for putting pirates on trial.

Such concerted action by the Commission and Member States, as well as together with other countries and regions of the world, is urgently needed to restore the safety of the seas, which, in terms of fishing, affects both industrial fleets and small local vessels. The problem affects the European Union economy as well as the subsistence of local communities, aggravating their poverty and leading the population into piracy, in a continuously deepening cycle that has to be stopped once and for all.

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE).(IT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the international community is shedding crocodile tears, having abandoned Somalia to its fate for many years by giving up a strong military presence on the ground that would have helped prepare the conditions for governance that could have saved the country, which has now become a thorn in the side of the civilised world.

Also shedding crocodile tears are those who protest at the presence of military personnel on board merchant ships and, at the same time, fail to understand that without bringing force to bear, and therefore having the protection of the special forces and using targeted measures against pirates, we will not be able to achieve the result we hope for. Above all, however, the European Union could be shedding crocodile tears if we fail to bring home the Italian soldiers. There is a very simple reason for this: who will be prepared to deploy military personnel unless they can be tried by the correct jurisdiction according to the principles of internal law?

It will be the end of action against piracy if the Italian soldiers do not come home. At the very least, we need to save ourselves from the extreme confusion created, not by the High Representative, but by some inaccurate spokespeople who continue to talk about private guards when, in fact, we are dealing with military personnel properly deployed in accordance with international law and in line with our legal principles.

 
  
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  Potito Salatto (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I will not join my Italian colleagues in asking the EU to intervene to protect the two Italian soldiers because I believe that this should instead be the duty of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy as it concerns two European citizens of Italian origin.

Unless, in this Chamber and our institutions, we do not make the cultural shift that will require the High Representative for Foreign Affairs to take care of our citizens, especially when international rules have been flouted – the most basic of which is that a ship in international waters is subject to the jurisdiction of the flag it is flying – we will never manage to give Parliament a significant role at international level. This would cause serious damage and continue to leave foreign policy to be implemented by individual Member States, rather than creating the supranational state of Europe that citizens are crying out for.

I was amazed when Baroness Ashton initially replied to calls for explanations from Italian fellow Members by saying that, ‘We did not receive any requests from the Italian Government’. Moreover, this evening, you, Commissioner, also introduced the issue saying ‘We are acting at the request of the Italians’. This is the wrong cultural and political approach. We are a great nation, a great continent, and we have to take care of our European citizens regardless of their nationality wherever they are, taking action to safeguard them in accordance with international law. I hope that sooner or later, Baroness Ashton will be capable of making this cultural shift.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, in recent years, several Romanian sailors have been captured by Somali pirates. Last October, three of them were fortunately released after eight months of captivity. Piracy should be tackled by the EU in terms of both its causes and impact on security in the region.

Europe needs to change its strategy on Somalia’s political and economic construction by cooperating with the African Union. Efforts must be accompanied by an efficient distribution of humanitarian aid. In parallel, efforts to combat attacks by sea must be centralised. Thus, parallel missions of the EU, China and the US are currently taking place in the coastal area. The military protection of the international transit corridor in the Gulf of Aden should also be prioritised within such a structure.

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the problem of maritime piracy is by now well-known, and the sad events involving the two Italian soldiers once again highlights a lack of collaboration between the institutions. If the two riflemen made a mistake in the course of their duties while combating piracy on behalf of Italy, then they will pay, but they will have to be tried by the Italian courts as enshrined in the Treaty of Montego Bay. To this end, I call on the Commission to take practical action to ensure that international law is respected. At the moment, there are two European citizens waiting to understand whether the institutions that represent them will be capable of guaranteeing the rights that Europe talk so much about.

 
  
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  Marco Scurria (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, this seems like a film from the past. We had thought that by now, piracy was something that only related to the Internet and issues concerning copyright and similar issues, instead of which, piracy is precisely what we know about from books and films of adventure. Obviously, the modern incarnation involves boarding a ship with machine guns and rocket launchers, not scimitars, and quite honestly, my left-wing friends, it has nothing to do with class war.

It is irresponsible to claim that pirates exist because of capitalist exploitation. There are no justifications for attacking, stealing and killing – and to say so means to be complicit in such crimes. It is a tragic problem, and it is even more tragic when the people protecting the ships in accordance with international law are arrested by the authorities of other countries duplicitously in clear violation of international law, as was the case recently with the two Italian soldiers in India, or rather in international waters, who were then taken to harbour in India.

I would like to thank the Commissioner for the comments made this evening in the Chamber, also because I hope that protecting the law is truly one of the EU’s main priorities.

 
  
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  Sergio Paolo Francesco Silvestris (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, two Italian citizens, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are currently under arrest in India. Today, the Italian Defence Minister told us that these soldiers and the ship on which they were serving were brought into port by deceit, having been told there were pirates in the port. Then, once the ship had entered the port, they were forcibly taken off the ship and the two soldiers only disembarked in order to avoid further bloodshed.

In the face of such a tale, we want to ask a straightforward question: ‘What is Europe doing about it? Where is Baroness Ashton, and why is she not here today telling us what is happening?’. If her care and attention to the issue are reflected by her absence from the Chamber, then this is very worrying.

Mr Piebalgs, you are here representing Baroness Ashton, so please tell her to come and tell us what action she is taking in this regard as soon as possible, or if and when she returns to this Chamber, she will be welcomed with the politeness and courtesy she will deserve. Parliament sends its strongest and most sincere best wishes to the two Italian marines arrested in India and their families who are suffering hours of worry in Italy.

 
  
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  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) Madam President, I would like to express my regret that, unfortunately, counter-piracy measures are not producing the expected results. The statistics show that the number of attacks on merchant ships now comes to several hundred per year, and the pirates are still holding over 450 people hostage. Up till now, an important role in the fight against the pirates has been played by the EU and its Operation Atalanta. This is, unfortunately, changing for the worse. The number of vessels taking part in counter-piracy operations is falling drastically. In 2009, 35 vessels were still part of these operations, while in 2011, there were only 10, and now there are only three. In other words, the EU must not appeal to others; it must itself make much greater and more specific efforts in the fight against piracy.

 
  
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  Licia Ronzulli (PPE).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, we decided to wear these T-shirts to maintain a high level of awareness and to ask the European Union to make a concrete commitment that will be able to successfully resolve the issue of the two Italian soldiers arrested in India. Only by combining forces can we retain hope in the liberation and repatriation of our soldiers. Europe took action unjustifiably late. It is once again absurd to have to note the absence of Baroness Ashton, the person in charge of foreign policy, from this debate. This is yet another demonstration of insensitivity, and here I would like to mention the Lampedusa affair as well, in taking effective and shared decisions rapidly at times of diplomatic crisis.

 
  
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  Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Madam President, that was a very emotional debate.

The accusation that the EU is not supporting the repatriation of the two Italian servicemen is a false accusation. I would mention just a couple of the steps it has taken. The EU has made approaches to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, to the Indian chargé d’affaires in Brussels, and to the Indian Deputy National Security Advisor, and that is not all. Baroness Ashton is fully committed to doing everything we can do from the EU side, but there is no magic wand solution. However, we are fully committed and we will take full care of the issue.

On Atalanta, this has actually been much more successful than was said; the number of ships in the hands of pirates has been reduced from 20 to eight. While there is still concern over around 200 hostages, there are sufficient resources for this year at least, and good coordination.

On the Somalia strategy, it is true that for 20 years, there has not been sufficient international involvement, but the EU alone does not hold the magic key to solving Somalia’s problems.

First of all, Somalia needs legitimate representatives, and today we have the transitional institutions. They are the only institutions we have in that country, and we should support them because of this.

Second, we support – and I mentioned the figures – the security operations. It is not easy to fight Al-Shabaab. Now, the number of African troops that are risking their lives, and taking quite heavy casualties – many soldiers from Burundi and Uganda have lost their lives fighting Al-Shabaab and preserving security – has increased to 17 000, so that might make a difference. However, the fact that a blast was reported at the presidential palace in Mogadishu today shows that the fight to ensure security is not an easy one.

We have made quite substantial investments in development and humanitarian aid – I have mentioned the figures – and it is true that we are doing more in Somaliland and in Puntland, where the security situation is better. However, it would not be true to say that we are not doing everything in our power. We are actually using all the financial resources that the Member States are prepared to give us.

On international shipping, we need the IMO. The IMO has responded to the call we made to it by organising a conference on how to protect merchant shipping. That conference will be held in May.

I could go on and on, but my point is that we need to find a solution to the security situation in Somalia and its political development. This is what is needed. The accusations that the EU provoked the crisis are ridiculous. We have not provoked the crisis. We are trying to resolve the crisis, as far as this is in our powers. By the way, last year, there was only one EU vessel taken in Somali waters.

This is a lot about alliances. The EU is doing its full share. We are engaging with our international partners. It is very important to understand that the EU’s efforts alone cannot provide a lasting solution to this issue. We need other members of the international community, and the bigger countries, to become fully involved. Only then will we be able to find, step by step, lasting solutions to fully eradicating piracy.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place during a future part-session.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  John Attard-Montalto (S&D), in writing. Too much has happened in addressing the serious problem of maritime piracy. The most conspicuous area where it is present is in the Indian Ocean. The main pirates come from Puntland, North Somalia. I have always believed that the only way to break this criminal activity is to make it economically not profitable. Indeed, maritime piracy is organised very much like a business venture, with shares taken up by investors who pass on the strategic information to the pirates who are in possession of state-of-the-art technologies. Patrolling such a huge area by navies has had an impact, but the piracy still exists. It has also spread to other areas like the Gulf of Guinea. Today, we are seeing more and more ships being protected by armed guards, the entire ship perimeter defended by razor wire. Gradually, tankers and merchant ships are being turned into sea fortresses. The problem, however, is to turn failed states like Somalia into nations respectful of international law. The UN is not even able to safeguard Mogadishu and therefore, it should delegate the task to those powers that are able and willing to use force to restore the rule of law.

 
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